Islamic Cultural Center of New York

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Islamic Cultural Center of New York
Islamic Cultural Center E96 jeh.JPG
Exterior view (2008)
Location1711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10029
United States
Geographic coordinates40°47′7″N 73°56′55″W / 40.78528°N 73.94861°W / 40.78528; -73.94861Coordinates: 40°47′7″N 73°56′55″W / 40.78528°N 73.94861°W / 40.78528; -73.94861
Architect(s)Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Architectural typeMosque
Architectural stylepost-modernism
Construction cost$14 million
Direction of façadeMecca
CapacityMain prayer hall: 1,000
Dome height (outer)90 feet (27 m)
Minaret height130 feet (40 m)
MaterialsSteel, concrete, marble, glass

The Islamic Cultural Center of New York is a mosque and Islamic cultural center in the borough of Manhattan in New York City, United States. It is located at 1711 Third Avenue, between East 96th and 97th Streets. The Islamic Cultural Center was the first mosque built in New York City.[1][2] The mosque's older dwelling in a townhouse at 1 Riverside Drive, is still in continual prayer use as a satellite location.

Design and history[edit]

Plans for a large Islamic center in New York were originally drawn up in the late 1960s as the first cultural center occupied a location at 1 Riverside Drive by 72nd Street.[3] The first Islamic Center started functioning on a small scale from a modest townhouse at that address. However, the board of trustees later aspired to build a new larger center in a way suiting its prestigious position in the community, and to be one of the landmarks of New York City.[3] Later, an overall project comprising a mosque, a school, a library, a museum, and a lecture hall, were planned out. After years of delays which included raising funds from Muslim countries, a prolonged process of relocating tenants, and the eventual demolition of the buildings on the site; construction of the Islamic Cultural Center began in October 1984.[4] Construction of the associated mosque began on May 28, 1987, the day which corresponded to the end of Ramadan.[1] The cornerstone of the minaret was laid on September 26, 1988.[2]

Construction was delayed during the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait and the First Gulf War.[5] The mosque opened on April 15, 1991, for the feast of Eid ul-Fitr.[6] In the end, more than 46 Muslim countries made contributions toward the $17 million construction cost of the mosque.[7]

One Riverside Drive, the site of New York's first Islamic cultural center

Today, like most mosques, the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York is oriented toward Mecca at a 58° angle from the west-east axis.[8] Consequently, the building is rotated 29° from Manhattan's north-south street grid,[9] which in turn is rotated 29° from due north-south. The precise calculation of the direction from New York to Mecca was based on the great circle that produces the shortest distance between the two cities.[8] As with many mosques, the direction of Mecca is marked inside by a niche on the wall, known as the mihrab.[10][not in citation given] Placed in the center of the large room, the mihrab is ornamented with a large design. Additionally, next to the mihrab is the minbar, which is a staircase from which the imam leads prayer.[citation needed]


Imam Abu-Namous engaged in a series of interfaith dialogues with prominent Muslim leaders and rabbis.[11] Abu-Namous's successor as imam, Mohammed Shamsi Ali, continued the meetings.[12] Due to political differences, Ali was fired from his post in 2011.[13] Ali was replaced with Abdul Razzaq E. Al Amiri.


Two imams (spiritual leaders) of the Islamic Cultural Center have made controversial statements.

The first, Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha, a week after his resignation, stated he had received death threats which partially explained his reason to return to Egypt.[14] He also stated however that "only the Jews" were capable of the September 11 attacks and "if it became known to the American people, they would have done to Jews what Hitler did."[15][16] He also stated that as "Allah described it," Jews "disseminate corruption in the land" and are responsible for the spread of "heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs.".[17] These statements were immediately disowned by the Islamic Cultural Center.[18]

Gemeaha's replacement, Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, condemned the September 11 attacks, but argued there was no "conclusive evidence" that Muslims were responsible.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Williams, Winston (May 29, 1987). "Amid Rejoicing, Work Begins on Mosque". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Paul (September 26, 1988). "Mosque Rising Is a First in New York". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Islamic Cultural Center NY Background". Islamic Cultural Center of New York. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  4. ^ Goodman, George W. (October 28, 1984). "Ground Broken for Islamic Center". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  5. ^ Goldman, Ari L. (December 9, 1990). "Persian Gulf Crisis Slows New York Mosque Project". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  6. ^ Steinfels, Peter (April 16, 1991). "For New York Muslims, a Soaring Dome Is Ready". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  7. ^ Dunlap, David W. (April 26, 1992). "A New Mosque for Manhattan, for the 21st Century". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2009.
  8. ^ a b Tyson, Neil deGrasse. "Islamic Cultural Center of New York". Natural History. American Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  9. ^ Schneider, Daniel B. (October 5, 1997). "The Islamic Angle". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  10. ^ Jews, Christians, Muslims : a comparative introduction to monotheistic religions. Denny, Frederick Mathewson., Eire, Carlos M. N., Jaffee, Martin S., Corrigan, John, 1952- (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall. 2012. ISBN 9780205018253. OCLC 695390082.
  11. ^ Perelman, Marc (November 16, 2007). "With Certain Topics Kept off Table, Rabbis and Imams Find Common Ground". The Forward. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  12. ^ Ruby, Walter (April 2, 2008). "Imam Seeks 'Real Connections'". The Jewish Week. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  13. ^ "Shamsi Ali: The rise and fall of a New York imam". BBC News. November 2, 2013. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
  14. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (October 23, 2001). "New York Cleric's Departure From Mosque Leaves Mystery". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  15. ^ Rosen, Jonathan (November 4, 2001). "The Uncomfortable question of Anti-Semitism". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  16. ^ Lipsy, Seth (Oct 24, 2001). "A Fair Sheik?". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
  17. ^ "Terror in America". Middle East Media Research Institute. Oct 21, 2001. Retrieved May 21, 2009.
  18. ^ "Nation Challenged Imam New York Cleric's Departure from Mosque Leaves Mystery". The New York Times. October 23, 2001. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  19. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (November 2, 2001). "New Head of Mosque Wants Proof". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2009.

Further reading[edit]

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