On June 28th, 1957, President Dwight Eisenhower addressed a crowd of American and Muslim diplomats gathered at the Islamic Center of Washington’s inauguration. Speaking from under marble columns and turquoise floral tiles he declared that the United States held a “strong bond of friendship with the Islamic nations” and called for the “peaceful progress of all men under one God.” Capitalizing on Eisenhower’s visit to the Islamic Center, the State Department began broadcasting and distributing printed copies of the president’s remarks throughout countries with significant Muslim populations. Egyptian newspapers published photographs of President Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower removing their shoes as they entered the mosque. In Iran, state news media gave extensive coverage to the speech and leading clerics contacted the U.S. Embassy to express their gratitude. The State Department ordered photographs and posters of the Islamic Center of Washington to be printed in mass quantities in French, Arabic, and English at embassies in Dakar, Karachi, Dhaka, Algiers,islamic center shoes Tunis, and Damascus.
In the wake of World War II, with the crumbling of Europe’s old colonial order and the beginning of the Cold War, the United States sought to utilize the Islamic character of countries like Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others in order to thwart the spread of communism in the region. As the United States built a postwar empire, the Islamic Center of Washington became a local link between Washington and the Muslim world–a local mosque with the headquarters of American empire in its own backyard.
From Eisenhower’s speech at the Center’s inauguration in 1957 to the D.C. hostage crisis in 1977, and from the Iranian Revolution in 1979 to George W. Bush’s landmark speech on Islam after 9/11, the Islamic Center of Washington has always been more than merely a place of worship for D.C. area Muslims. The Islamic Center’s unique location on Embassy Row, home to dozens of embassies and diplomatic families, allowed the mosque to connect Washington with Muslims not only in the D.C. area, but also across the globe. As a local newspaper proclaimed in the fall of 1953, the mosque’s “graceful minaret” marked “Washington as more than ever a world city.” »»» Sailan Muslim (Sri Lanka)
» 16 April 2014