Project #6: Photograph of Mosque in Dearborn Heights, Michigan

The Dearborn community in Southeast Michigan is home to one of the largest and most diverse Muslim populations in the United States. With believers residing in this area originally from countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Palestine, Pakistan, India, and Somalia, this once heavily white-populated neighborhood has now been physically influenced in indescribable ways. Most obviously is the emergence of tens of mosques all over the landscape. These mosques provide space for these diverse communities to get together under what they all have in common – their religion and devotion to God. 

Several of these mosques, including the notable Islamic Center of America (one of the largest and oldest on the continent), share the well-known features these buildings usually have. This includes the prominent dome, geometric shapes, large minarets, and other aspects that are quickly identified by people as indicators of the presence of this holy space. However, as we learned in class, there are eminent mosques that do not fit these categories. Azra Aksamija’s nomadic mosque is a clear example of how a mosque doesn’t need to have these beautifully detailed components; a mosque is simply a safe place where a human can take time out of their day to meditate and thank their God. With this in mind, I started to think about a very popular mosque in Dearborn Heights: the Islamic Institute of America.

This mosque is not like many before it. It lacks the elements that usually come to mind when thinking about a mosque and as seen in the photograph I have taken of it, resembles more of a church than it does of a typical mosque. This is because this mosque was actually only established a few years ago, when the founders bought out an abandoned building that was previously a church and transformed the space to be suitable for Muslims. Little construction has been done to this mosque except orienting the prayer space to follow the direction of qibla. Other than that, it still has similar characteristics to churches such as pews that span the whole lecture hall and the overall shape. This building conversion not only exemplifies the long-lasting effects and physical imprint that the increase in Muslim population in the United States is having on the environment, but also exhibits that a mosque is not defined by its fancy architectural factor and more by its function.


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