87-Year-Old Mosque in North Dakota is Oldest in America

North Dakota Mosque U.S. Embassy, Jakarta/CC BY-ND 2.0
North Dakota Mosque U.S. Embassy, Jakarta/CC BY-ND 2.0
The first mosque in the United States was built in North Dakota.

Islam is the third largest faith in the United States. There are more than 2,000 mosques in America as of now. Most mosques are concentrated in big cities, such as New York, California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey.

87-Year-Old Mosque in North Dakota is Oldest in America[/tweetthis]

The first mosque in the United States, however, was constructed in the small city of Ross, North Dakota. Built by the Syrian-Lebanese immigrants in 1929, the mosque was constructed as a sub-basement to keep it safe from the cold and wind. The building was small, however, it was able to handle the rugged prairie winters well. It had benches, a rug, and a coal stove. The Muslims in Ross had plans to expand the building, however, due to the economic difficulties that resulted due to the Great Depression, prevented them from going ahead with their plan. Eventually, most of the Muslim families in Ross moved to other cities, and the building fell into disrepair and was dismantled. In 2005, according to the wish of Sarah Allie (Omar) Shupe, one of the city's remaining Muslims, the mosque was rebuilt by her family.

According to Wyatt Seible, the mayor of Ross, visitors from all over the nation come to visit the mosque. Many of them travel a great distance just to see the building or to worship in the mosque. A few people come to pay respect to their family buried in the nearby cemetery. The cemetery has a star-crescent symbol on many of its gravestones as well as on its gate. The mosque is rarely used for religious rituals, even during Ramadan. It mostly remains as a powerful emblem of Muslim heritage and pride. It is a strong reminder that Islam has been part of American culture for a long time. Ramadan begins on June.

According to sociology professor Bill Sherman of North Dakota State University, the original mosque did not actually look like a mosque, it was just a plain building. The Muslim people used to say their prayers by facing east towards Mecca. As per Sherman, the Muslim immigrants came to Ross, North Dakota, United States, looking for a better life.

According to the 50-year old Ross resident Diane Seible, the mosque even attracts professors from all over the world. Over the years, she has seen many of them coming in and checking the place out.

Aman Ali, a professional storyteller, said that the Ross Mosque actually changed his life. Learning that the Muslim communities have been part of this nation since the 1800s, have been an eye-opener for him. For the first time in his life, he felt like he actually belonged in the United States.


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