America’s First Mosque was Erected in Iowa and I’m Confused
Yup. Apparently Islam hopped, skipped, and jumped to the Midwest and our home state before deciding to fully set up shop. Who knew?
According to nps.gov,
The Moslem Temple, now the Mother Mosque of America, was completed on February 15, 1934 (in Cedar Rapids). It is a simple, one-story wood frame prairie schoolhouse style building.
It is also the oldest surviving place of worship for Muslims (in the U.S.).
Though an influx of Middle Eastern Muslims didn't start in the United States until the late 1870s, it was difficult for them to establish economic stability. Those from what is now Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon were classified as "Turks." They were, at that point in time, considered Asiatic. Individuals from this group of people were ineligible to become American citizens, for whatever reason.
Because of the struggles they faced, many returned back to their home countries. In regards to the others, NPS has this to say:
Those who remained became miners, factory workers, peddlers, grocers, shopkeepers, or petty merchants. Though they only represented 10 percent of the Arab immigrants, sizeable clusters of Arab Muslims settled in the mid-west.
Over that time period of movement and dispersion throughout the country, there were other places of worship, says mothermosque.wpengine.com:
There were many 'Musalla' or places that held prayers in America before the Mother Mosque was built. These Musalla were in the upstairs room of a restaurant or in the basement of a grocery store, sometimes even in individual homes.
Up until reading that, I had no idea how Iowa had the first ever mosque. Hella confusion at work today.
As the case for many immigrants, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these Arab Muslims found it to be an overwhelming task to assimilate in America. The differing language and customs paired with more prevalent racism didn't make things particularly easy for the group. A small portion of them in Cedar Rapids deemed it was time to find -- or build -- a place of worship for them to gather.
Growing populations helped.
In 1914, Arab Muslims made up a population of just 45 in Cedar Rapids. Come the mid-1920s though, a full-blown Muslim community had risen. A group of men known as "The Rose of Fraternity Lodge" rented an establishment that became their mosque for the time being. These members, specifically 20 young men, would meet weekly and discuss plans for the construction of a place they could call home.
By the date previously mentioned, the building became North America's first built-from-the-ground-up mosque and social center. The site meant so much more than that to Muslim Americans, though. NPS continues:
The congregation that attended services here became an important force for changing the status of Muslims in the United States. Donations from the Aossey family led to the foundation of the first Muslim National Cemetery in Cedar Rapids in 1948. The cemetery served as a final resting place for the whole mid-west region.
Members also were among the founding organizers of the Federation of Islamic Associations of the United States and Canada.
As the population of Muslims continued to grow in the Corridor, the building quickly became too small. In 1970, the community relocated to a newly built mosque on First Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.
After years of deterioration and lack of upkeep, the Islamic Council of Iowa purchased and renovated the building in the the early 1990s. It now serves as a place of worship and historical site.
The Mother Mosque of America is located at 1335 9th St. NW, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52405. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1996. For more information about visiting, please call (319) 366-3150 or visit their website.