Washington -- The Islamic Center of Washington is impressive. Prominently situated along Embassy Row in the U.S. capital city, the mosque often is considered the symbol of the Muslim community in America. In the 50 years since its dedication on June 28, 1957, it has become one of the city’s most familiar landmarks.
The idea for the mosque occurred to prominent businessman and contractor A.J. Howar at the 1944 funeral of a Turkish diplomat. Howar was a Palestinian immigrant, a Muslim whose name had been Yousef Abu El Hawa before he came to America. During the funeral, Howar said to the ambassador of Egypt, Mahmoud Hassan Pasha, “Isn’t it a shame that the prayer for such a great Muslim is not held in a mosque?” The ambassador’s reply was to ask Howar to help build one.
The men formed a foundation to raise money and support, and the mosque was finished in 1957. Donations came from Muslim communities in the United States and from Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.