Historic Cedar Rapids Mosque Loses Prized Artifacts

June 18, 2008

Author: Jessie Halladay

Source: The Des Moines Register


Imam Taha Tawil slipped off his muddy shoes and padded across the cream-colored carpet marred by someone else's muddy footprints.

He turned to the northeast and began to pray.

Below him, in the basement of the Mother Mosque of America, are the soggy heirlooms of the oldest mosque in America, which were destroyed when floodwaters entered the building last week.

Tawil, the mosque's spiritual leader, finally saw the destruction Monday, when the National Guard allowed access to the quiet residential neighborhood on Ninth Street Northwest.

"It's just amazing how God is great when he wishes to do something," Tawil said. "It's amazing while at the same time devastating. Maybe something good will come out of it. We never know the meaning behind it."

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.