About a year ago, when we first started seeking support for the Journey into America project, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa told us that he would take us to The Mother Mosque. This is supposedly the oldest Mosque in America, though this is disputed. The Mosque is located in Cedar Rapids Iowa, where we stopped on our way from Chicago to Omaha. Senator Harkin unfortunately could not join us due to scheduling conflicts but we visited the city and its Muslim community last week and found it very interesting.
We also visited the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, where Professor Ahmed was asked to give the Khutba. Being asked to give the Khutba at Friday prayers during Ramadan is a huge honor. He was up to the task, of course, delivering a beautiful talk on the importance of knowledge, or ilm, in Islam quoting the hadith where the Prophet said “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr”. The Mosque was full of several hundred Muslims praying in the middle of nowhere, in the heartland, in the cornfields of Iowa. The diversity of the worshipers was wide–South Asians, Syrians, Lebanese, North Africans, East Africans, African Americans and several white converts.
The trip to the Mother Mosque really interesting as well. You can read more about the Mosque on their website here. The Mosque was damaged in the flood in the spring of 2008 but is being restored. The community in Cedar Rapids has a interesting story. Syrian and Lebanese immigrants came to Iowa in the 19th century and settled as farmers and built this Mosque in 1934. It stands in the middle of a quiet neighborhood and looks like a nice Midwestern house. You would hardly notice without the sign as there is only a small marker in the neighborhood. We got a tour and talked to the caretaker of the Mosque.
It was a short but memorable visit to Cedar Rapids. Keep checking the blog–there should be some more videos and posts coming in the next few days about our time in Omaha.