Muslim America moves away from the minaret

In post 9/11 America the construction of new mosques in the US has sometimes sparked controversy and even confrontation. Is that why some new Muslim houses of worship are being built without the most recognisable features of Islamic architecture – minarets and domes?

The National Islamic Center in Washington DC is an imposing building with a towering minaret. One of America’s iconic mosques, it is surrounded by the flags of the Islamic countries which helped pay for its construction in the 1950s.
Its design was influenced by classical and traditional architecture in Egypt. Akbar Ahmed, a professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington DC and one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Islam, says it would be impossible to build such a national mosque today because of the controversy it would arouse.

“It’s a bad time for Islamic architecture,” says Mr Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the UK.
“If there was some visionary with money who wanted to build the Taj Mahal in the US, he’d be attacked as a stealth Jihadist.”

Muslim confronts needs of city

He is one of Muslim America’s rising young activists, yet he is reserved in his comments on caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, the Mideast conflict and the war in Iraq. Instead, Rami Nashashibi speaks out against Muslim-owned liquor stores, protests on behalf of Latino workers and denounces mistreatment of blacks by the criminal justice system. On Monday he joined Mexicans, Koreans and Poles in a massive march for immigrant rights. Such issues are not commonly associated with Muslim activism, but Nashashibi, 33, believes Islam calls on the faithful to focus on gritty problems in urban areas. For him, waging a war at home against poverty, gang violence and other modern plagues is key to uniting Muslim Americans.