Bosnian War Refugees Work to Build New Mosque in Des Moines

September 23, 2008

Author: Daniel P. Finney

Source: The Des Moines Register

In a tan building across the street from the Merle Hay Mall Younkers parking lot, the American dream is happening.

It looks like any other construction site in Des Moines: A stack of bricks sits on a trailer outside the front gate. Pails of spackle and paste sit inside the 3,700-square-foot structure. Scaffolding is assembled in a few locations, and drywall dust covers the floor.

What it all adds up to is a new spin on an old story: New immigrants to Des Moines, and the nation, are taking something old and making it new again.

A group of Bosnian immigrants is turning a former used-car dealership at 6206 Douglas Ave. into a mosque, the worship center of the Islamic faith.

Except for the electricity and plumbing, they're doing most of the labor themselves - after work, on weekends and whenever schedules allow.

They escaped religious persecution and the bloody Bosnian-Serbian war to arrive in Des Moines, some more than a decade ago. Their community has grown and changed as they taught themselves to speak English, found work and built lives in a new place.

Now they're putting their own landmark in the community - a worship center that will also serve as a cultural center where the organizers hope both immigrants and the community as a whole can learn about each other.