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The Muslims Who Fought and Died for America

World Bulletin / News Desk

Moslem temple

The Mother Mosque in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is considered to be the first official purpose-built mosque in the United States.

Originally built in 1934 as a ‘Moslem Temple’, the mosque, which survived a devastating flood in 2008, has over time earned the love and respect of all walks of life in Iowa. After the 2008 flood, local Christians and Jews even offered to help restore the building.

Its congregation has kept good relations with non-Muslim communities since it was established, even helping to build the St. George Orthodox Church for Arab Christian migrants in Cedar Rapids.

One particular Cedar Rapids Muslim, Haj Yahya Aossey, who migrated to the area in 1907, donated several acres of land in 1949 to be used as the first Muslim cemetery in the US.

Interestingly, the cemetery is full of graves for Muslim war veterans who fought and died for the US in World War II.

Fatima Smejkal, whose father was sent to fight for the US in Japan, told Al Jazeera America that soldiers back then were only allowed the letters P, C and J on their dog tags to state their religion (Protestant, Catholic or Jewish).

Her father vowed that if he came back alive, he would appeal to have the letter M for Muslim also included in the categories for religion. When he came back from Japan, he kept his promise, and because of his hard work and campaigning, the US adopted the letter M for Muslim soldiers.

The Muslims of Cedar Rapids today have built a new mosque to cope with their growing community, but the old mosque still stands more as a historic building than anything else, attracting visitors of all faiths.

The congregation in Cedar Rapids are all now fourth or fifth generation, and are very much American.


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