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America’s Oldest Mosques; A Photographic Journey

Recently, freelance Broadcaster, Travel Writer and Journalist Tharik Hussain took listeners of the BBC World Service on a fascinating journey through the Muslim heritage of America by exploring the country’s oldest surviving mosques as well as some of it’s newest ones.

In part one Hussain reveals that the oldest surviving mosque in all of North America is in Brooklyn, New York. It opened in 1931 and is called the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque. The building was originally a church and bought by migrant Baltic Tatar Muslims from Lithuania, Poland and Belarus. Today the mosque remains in the care of their direct descendants. Hussain also visits the Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; America’s first purpose built mosque (1934). There he interviews the descendants of the original Syrian and Lebanese community.

In part two Hussain first visits a group of young American Muslims wanting to create a ‘new’ type of mosque in Virginia. He then makes his way to one where Malcolm X preached before meeting mystical Muslims in New York that welcome people of all faiths and no faith. Finally, Hussain, a British-Bangladeshi, visits an American-Bangladeshi mosque. Through his journey we are given a glimpse of the different people calling themselves Muslim in the USA today.

Here are some of the pictures he took on that journey …

Mosque exterior (1)

The minaret-like turret of the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque – America’s oldest surviving mosque

Mosque exterior (3)

The Brooklyn Moslem Mosque used to be a church and opened in 1931 as a mosque

Photos, The American Mohammedan Society and United American Mohammedan Friends

A photo from the 1940s shows just how assimilated the congregation were

The mehrab and the minbar in the prayer hall

The minbar and mehrab of the Brooklyn Moslem Mosque

Old prayer book, handwritten

An old handwritten book with chapters of the Qur’an, once used to learn by someone

The Moslem Mosque library

The mosque’s ancient library reveals a diverse range of books

Oldest designated Muslim burial site in USA, graves embedded in tree

The first cemetery where the congregation were buried might just be the oldest Muslim burial space in the USA.

Mother Mosque, exterior (2)

The Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is believed to be America’s first purpose built mosque

Mother Mosque, Imam Taha Tawil being interviewed by Producer Adam Fowler

Imam Taha Tawil of the Mother Mosque, originally from Jerusalem, being interviewed

Mother Mosque, diverse bookshelf

The Mother Mosque’s library encourages inter-religious understanding

America's oldest official Muslim Cemetery, entrance (1)

The Muslim Cemetery in Cedar Rapids is believed to be the first official Muslim cemetery in the USA

The community's Islamic Centre, dome

The dome of the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, built by the later Mother Mosque community

The community's Islamic Centre, Imam Hasan (2)

Imam Hassan Mahmoud of the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids is 28 years old and originally from Egypt

The Mehrab where the Imam stands for prayer

The mehrab of the Dergah al Farah in New York city

Aminah and Rabia in the background

Dervishes Ameena Meer and Rabia Gentile of the Dergah al Farah

Name of one of the four Caliphs on the walls inside the mosque

One of the names of the first four caliphs hanging on the wall of the Dergah al Farah

Small book collection

Books inside the Dergah al Farah

Sign on building

The Masjid Muhammad in Washington DC began life as a Temple for the Nation of Islam, but is now a mosque following Islam

Street renamed for the Mosque

The road outside the Masjid Muhammad has been renamed

Imam of the Masjid Muhammad

Imam Talib Shareef of the Masjid Muhammad who served 30 years in the US Air Force

Front of mosque (3)

The Hadrath Shahjalal Mosque in Astoria, New York is named after the most revered Muslim saint in Bangladesh

Imam's podium

The minbar of the Hadrath Shahjalal Mosque in Astoria, New York city

To connect with Tharik Hussain visit his website and blog

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Written by Tharik Hussain

Tharik is a freelance journalist, travel writer, photographer and broadcaster specialising in the Islamic stories of Europe and the West, and Muslim ('Halal') travel.