A Mosque in America's Heartland

September 6, 2007

Author: Jane Lampman

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


Perrysburg, Ohio - From Interstate 75, the sight is striking: A gleaming white mosque with twin minarets in the classical Islamic style rises out of the Ohio countryside.

A visit to the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo during Friday prayers offers another remarkable scene. Inside the mosque's domed prayer hall, as light streams through stained-glass windows inscribed with attributes of God and verses from the Koran, men and women gather to pray alongside each other, with a low partition in between. In most mosques, women pray either behind the men, separated by a curtain or enclosure, or in another room.

"This center has always been progressive in that sense. Even at social functions, men and women are never separated," says M.Y. Ahmed, president of the mosque's governing council. "This has been a tradition since it started."

This Midwest Muslim community, founded by Syrian-Lebanese immigrants some 75 years ago, stands out in several ways as an example of American faithful shaping their Islamic practice for the place and the times.