A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Iowa flooding and the Mother Mosque

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 18, 2008

My home state has been hit hard by flooding during the past two weeks, with strong rains sending massive crests of water through Iowa’s riverways and into its cities.

This morning I learned that one of Iowa’s treasures, the United States’ oldest continuously operating mosque, is one of the flood victims. The mosque is called the “Mother Mosque” – I’ve blogged about it before, on happier occasions – and it is now facing a mother of a clean-up job.

Here’s an article about it published yesterday in Eastern Iowa’s The Gazette:
CEDAR RAPIDS – The historic flooding of the Cedar River last week sent water into the Mother Mosque of America, likely destroying nearly a century’s worth of records, documents and artifacts, officials said Monday.

Imam Taha Tawil, executive director of the mosque, 1335 Ninth St. SW, said no one expected the floodwaters to come as far as the building, the oldest surviving mosque in the United States.

“I couldn’t even believe that this would happen or that it would come close to us,” Tawil said Monday.

“In 1993 I was there, and it didn’t reach even Second or Third Street.”

Tawil said he is certain the waters flooded the mosque’s basement, where most of the books, artifacts, historic documents, old photos and filmed documentaries are stored. He said he believes water also got onto the first floor of the mosque.

You can read the rest of the article here.

And now a more recent article has been published, this one in today’s Des Moines Register. The reporter tours the mosque and indicates the extent of the damage:

Water didn’t reach the main floor of the mosque, sparing the prayer room that just underwent a $55,000 renovation.

But below, in the space where the mosque holds community meetings and teaches school groups, there was total destruction. Dozens of videotapes with the oral histories of Arabs who have come to Iowa lie waterlogged. Mud covers prayer rugs and books. Ceiling tiles have collapsed, and tables have warped.

I’m happy that the services area was spared – after all, the mosque’s first priority is its living community. And I’m very happy that the mosque is receiving coverage in the local papers – to me its a sign that it is accepted as part of the Iowa community. But I’m heartbroken about the oral histories, because they are a rich reminder of the diversity that does exist in the Midwest.

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