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Islamic Cultural Center of New York

Islamic Cultural Center of New York
Exterior view (2008)
Basic information
Location 1711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10029
United States
Geographic coordinates
Affiliation Islam
Leadership Abdul Razzaq E. Al Amiri
Website .usicc-ny
Architectural description
Architect(s) Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Architectural type Mosque
Architectural style Late modernism
Direction of façade Mecca
Groundbreaking 1987
Completed 1991
Construction cost $14 million
Capacity Main prayer hall: 1,000
Dome height (outer) 90 feet (27 m)
Minaret height 130 feet (40 m)
Materials Steel, 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 1
  • Outreach 2
  • Controversies 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Design and history

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]


Imam Abu-Namous engaged in a series of interfaith dialogues with prominent Muslim leaders and rabbis.[10] Abu-Namous's successor as imam, Mohammed Shamsi Ali, continued the meetings.[11] However, due to liberal political differences, Ali was fired from his post in 2011.[12] 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.[13] 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."[14][15] 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.".[16] These statements were immediately disowned by the Islamic Cultural Center.[17]

Gemeaha's replacement, Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, condemned the September 11 attacks, but argued there was no "conclusive evidence" that Muslims were responsible.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b Williams, Winston (May 29, 1987). "Amid Rejoicing, Work Begins on Mosque".  
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Paul (September 26, 1988). "Mosque Rising Is a First in New York".  
  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".  
  5. ^ Goldman, Ari L. (December 9, 1990). "Persian Gulf Crisis Slows New York Mosque Project".  
  6. ^ Steinfels, Peter (April 16, 1991). "For New York Muslims, a Soaring Dome Is Ready".  
  7. ^ Dunlap, David W. (April 26, 1992). "A New Mosque for Manhattan, for the 21st Century".  
  8. ^ a b Tyson, Neil deGrasse. "Islamic Cultural Center of New York". Natural History.  
  9. ^ Schneider, Daniel B. (October 5, 1997). "The Islamic Angle".  
  10. ^ Perelman, Marc (November 16, 2007). "With Certain Topics Kept off Table, Rabbis and Imams Find Common Ground".  
  11. ^ Ruby, Walter (April 2, 2008). "'"Imam Seeks 'Real Connections.  
  12. ^ "Shamsi Ali: The rise and fall of a New York imam".  
  13. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (October 23, 2001). "New York Cleric's Departure From Mosque Leaves Mystery".  
  14. ^ Rosen, Jonathan (November 4, 2001). "The Uncomfortable question of Anti-Semitism".  
  15. ^ Lipsy, Seth (Oct 24, 2001). "A Fair Sheik?".  
  16. ^ "Terror in America".  
  17. ^ "Nation Challenged Imam New York Cleric's Departure from Mosque Leaves Mystery".  
  18. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (November 2, 2001). "New Head of Mosque Wants Proof".  

External links

  • Official website
  • Islamic Cultural Center of New York at New York Architecture Images
  • Islamic Cultural Center of New York at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
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