Islamic Center of Washington

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Islamic Center of Washington
Islamic Center of Washington - 2551 Massachusetts Avenue NW.jpg
The Islamic Center of Washington
Basic information
Location Washington, United States
Geographic coordinates Coordinates: 38°55′1″N 77°3′25″W / 38.91694°N 77.05694°W / 38.91694; -77.05694
Affiliation Islam
Architectural description
Architectural type Mosque
Completed 1957
Minaret(s) 1
Minaret height 160 feet[1]

The Islamic Center of Washington is a mosque and Islamic cultural center in Washington, D.C.. It is located on Embassy Row on Massachusetts Avenue just east of the bridge over Rock Creek. When it opened in 1957 it was the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere. Some 6,000 people pray there each Friday.


The center was conceived in 1944 when the Turkish ambassador Münir Ertegün died without a mosque to host his funeral. The Egyptian ambassador, Howar (Mohammed Issa Abu Al Hawa,1879-1982) and other Muslim diplomats helped found and provide early funding to a committee to build a mosque in the U.S. capital. In 1948, Howar, placing a silver dollar on the ground for luck, began work at the site. The mosque was completed in 1954 and dedicated by President Dwight Eisenhower on June 28, 1957.

The Washington diplomatic community played a leading role in the effort to construct a mosque. Egypt donated a bronze chandelier and sent specialists who wrote Qur'anic verses to adorn the mosque’s walls and ceiling. Tiles came from Turkey along with the experts to install them. Persian rugs came from Iran.[2] Support for the project also came from the American-Muslim community. The site was purchased in 1946 and the cornerstone was laid on January 11, 1949. The building was designed by Italian architect Mario Rossi.[3]

The mosque was one of three buildings taken over in the 1977 Hanafi Siege. Muslim gunmen holding hostages made several demands, including the demand that the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God be destroyed because they considered it sacrilegious."[4]

The mosque has been visited by many dignitaries, including several presidents. President George W. Bush visited on September 17, 2001, only days after the attacks of September 11.[5] On national television, Bush quoted from the Qur'an and worked to assure Americans that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful.[6]


In addition to the mosque, the center contains a library and classrooms where courses on Islam and the Arabic language are taught. The center's board of governors is made up of various ambassadors. Around the building are arrayed the flags of the Islamic nations of the world.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Stewart, Nikita (August 1, 2005). "Muslims Find Room to Grow in D.C.'s Outer Suburbs". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ "History | The Islamic Center - المركز الاسلامى". The Islamic Center. Retrieved 2014-05-28. 
  3. ^ p.10 of brochure
  4. ^ Theresa Vargas (March 12, 2007). "'Some Things You Never Forget': Thirty years ago, gunmen stormed three D.C. buildings, taking 150 hostages and one life". Washington Post. p. B01. 
  5. ^ President Bush Rededicates Islamic Center of Washington, Press release of the White House on June, 27th 2007
  6. ^ Video and audio of President Bush's remarks