Driving North on Interstate 75, about an hour South of Detroit,
Michigan, one's eyes are drawn to the gleaming white dome and minarets
of a mosque. As one gets nearer one sees a magnificent white structure
which a sign proclaims is the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
The weary traveler, having passed miles of cookie-cutter Americana,
cannot but feel his spirits soar at this uplifting sight. Built on
forty-eight acres of land in 1983, the mosque and surrounding buildings
today cover 40,000 square feet. The sixty foot dome is flanked by two
135 foot minarets. The octagonal prayer room can accommodate 1000
people, there is a 500 seat sermon hall, classroom, offices, a medical
clinic, a huge dining room, and a large commercial kitchen. There are
plans to add two wings: one for a full-time school, and the other a home
for the elderly. Tours are conducted regularly.
Having been invited to speak at the 12th anniversary celebrations of
the Islamic Center, it was the outstanding Muslim community I found
there which most endeared me to that place. The subject of the seminar
was Islam and Media. The speakers included Prof. William Green, dean of
undergraduate studies at the University of Rochester; Prof. Jack
Shaheen, nationally known commentator and writer, Sr. Sharifa Alkhateeb
of the Muslim Women's Georgetown Study Project, Mr. Richard Paton, an
editor at The Blade, and Mr. Enver Masud, representing The Wisdom Fund.
The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish speakers agreed that media coverage
of Islam and Muslims was largely negative. All, except Mr. Paton, agreed
on the need to get more Muslims into the media. Mr. Paton's reservations
about this suggestion are, perhaps, understandable since The Blade
appears to be an exception and frequently carries profiles of Muslims
and articles from Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, a regular contributor to The
Blade and President of the Islamic Center.
The audience for the seminar included Muslim's from many professions,
Christians, and at least one Hindu. The Muslim women were not restrained
by the strict separation common to some Muslim communities. In fact the
prayer room has only a three foot divider separating the men from women.
The seminar and Anniversary Dinner were covered by local media, the
mayor attended, and congratulations from George V. Voinovich, Governor
of Ohio and the Greater Toledo community were contained in a 30 page
program handed out at dinner. Dr. Saleh Jabrin, a major force behind the
building of the mosque, was honored by having a new wing dedicated in
Having attended functions at other Muslim centers, I was struck with
how well everything was managed. Events were on time, children well
behaved, and everything worked smoothly. In the heartland of the United
States, the Muslim community of Greater Toledo, the management of the
Islamic Center, and the charming and progressive Imam A. M. Khattab have
set a standard for enlightened Muslims in America.