1 Malcolm X Blvd Roxbury
by Marcia Butman, Discover Roxbury
The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center serves the growing Muslim population in Boston (now numbering 70,000 in Greater Boston) with space for 2000 worshippers. Eventually the center will house an elementary school serving 300 children and funeral facilities. The center is adminstered by the Muslim American Society-Boston Chapter
The Islamic Society of Boston is a non profit charitable, religious and educational organization founded in 1981 by a group of Muslim students in Greater Boston. In 1993 the ISB bought an old Knights of Columbus Hall in Cambridge to use as a mosque. Worshippers at Friday night prayers often overflow into the parking lot.
The ISB wanted to create a cultural center that would include a mosque and a space for cultural and community activities. The Boston Redevelopment Authority granted the ISB the opportunity to purchase the land, which had been vacant for almost 40 years at below market rate. In exchange, the center will make a cultural investment in the Roxbury community, providing community benefits that include lectures about Islam and Muslims through Roxbury Community College, scholarships, the donation of books to the Roxbury Community College library, and the care of two neighboring parks.
Work on the project was slowed down after the attacks of 2001. The support of the city was never in question, but local Muslims were busy answering questions about Islam and fundraising slowed during this difficult time. The Boston Herald and Fox News released stories claiming that Islamic extremists had founded and supported the ISB. The ISB does not condone terrorism or extremism and checks all donors through its Know Your Donor Program and the U.S. Terrorist watch list.
"These news reports opened up rumors and questions about the ISB and the Islamic Cultural Center , allegations were made against the ISB regarding improprieties made during the sale of government property for the Cultural Center, as well as alleged ties to Islamic extremists through fundraising campaigns and the group's board of directors. In 2004, the Boston Redevelopment Authority was sued over the sale of the Roxbury plot to the ISB. The ISB then counter-sued, claiming a conspiracy of both opposed parties and media outlets to publicly defame the ISB and some of its leadership. Construction on the mosque was halted indefinitely. " (The Pluralism Project at Harvard University-Center Profile http://pluralism.org/profiles/view/74890)
In 2006, the Interreligious Center on Public Life (ICPL) initiated a private attempt to settle the disputes outside of the courts. In February 2007, the suit against the Boston Redevelopment Authority questioning the BRA sale of the land was dismissed and in May 2007 the ISB dropped their suit. With the legal issues settled the ISB resumed construction. A minaret capping ceremony was held on June 9, 2007, co sponsored by the Muslim American Society of Boston. On June 27, the ISB and MAS sponsored an "Intercommunity Solidarity Day." The Boston Chapter of the Muslim American Society adminsters the mosque.
In 2009, a two-day ceremony celebrated the completion of the Center. Amoong the attemdees was Mayor Thomas M. Menino officially welcoming the ISBCC to the city of Boston, stating: “We can’t be a city that separates ourselves, we have to be a city that builds bridges and that’s what we are doing.”
At any given Friday Jum'ah prayer service, as many as twenty-seven different ethnicities are represented. The large African and African-American Muslim populations already present in Roxbury also affect the demographics of the Center. (The Pluralism Project at Harvard University-http://pluralism.org/profiles/view/74890)
Steffian Bradley are the architects of record and Dr. Sami Angawi, Arabian architect and founder of the Amar Center, located in Jeddah has consulted on the design of the new cultural center.The Amar Center is dedicated to the revival and development of traditional architecture through research and studies, the restoration and rehabilitation of traditional buildings and houses and designing new buildings and projects based on the continuity of the traditional line of architecture from all aspects
The striking red brick mosque finds a balance between traditional elements of Islamic architecture and Boston design. Elements of the design include a 1256 foot minaret, and a 75 foot dome, accentuated by ceramic tile and calligraphy.
Harvard University: The Pluralism Project: Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Islamic Society of Boston Fact Sheet
Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (brochure)
Islamic Society of Boston
204 Prospect St.
Cambridge, Ma 02139
Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities: Mass Moments, November 7,2005 Islamic Society Breaks Ground in Roxbury