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Of Minarets And Domes

Boston Globe's "Ideas" section covers the construction of a mosque in New Jersey, featuring a minaret and a dome:

Does the congregation prefer this traditional appearance? Yes, says Zia, but with reservations. After all, since construction on the center began in 2000, it has been vandalized seven times.
Like other immigrant communities, Muslim Americans have a desire to signal their presence. Yet since 9/11, the Muslim community in America has become both increasingly visible and increasingly nervous about that visibility. The question for America's approximately 6 million Muslims who confront daily not only the charged post-9/11 political climate but also the pressures and expectations of life in a country of strip malls, rap videos, and exuberant individualism is what outward form that visibility should take.
It goes on to describe the nature of mosque construction across the United States, and the meaning of such.
Today's American Muslims face a heightened version of a question that generations of Christians, Jews, and others have faced before them: Is it best to express identity by preserving old, traditional forms or to discover a new language appropriate to a new setting?. . .According to the Koran, the only requirement for a mosque is that it have a niche, called a mihrab, in the wall, known as the qibla, that faces Mecca. "Everything else is up for grabs," says Akel Kahera, assistant professor of architecture at Texas Tech University and author of "Deconstructing the American Mosque" (2002).
Throughout the Islamic world different cultures have found strikingly different variations on the theme. In Turkey, the Ottoman mosques have expansive domes and pencil-thin, tapering minarets, while North African minarets tend to be square. Mosques in India are often capped with onion-shape domes, while Indonesian mosques have multi-tiered roofs. The adobe mosques of West Africa are built from mud bricks and palm beams coated in mud plaster. Surveying the 100 or so mosques across the United States that were built as mosques, Khalidi identifies three main architectural types: those in traditional Islamic styles; those that combine traditional forms with elements of American architecture; and those that make a clean break with traditional Islamic architecture. These last kind, however, are few and far between.

August 15, 2004 in Muslim | Permalink


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