A large crowd makes a circle around the Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids. Sunday, Mar. 26, 2017. — photo by Zak Neumann.
A large crowd gathered on Sunday, March 26 at the Mother Mosque of America to show support for Muslims in Iowa and throughout the United States. The Mother Mosque was the first Mosque built in North America and now acts as cultural center, with the mission, according to their website, to “preserve, present and share the history of Islam in America.”
One of the events organizers, Erin Bustin of Grinnell, was inspired by an event in her native Halifax, Nova Scotia where over a hundred people of different faiths encircled a Mosque to show their support for Muslims community after a gunman targeted a Mosque in Quebec. She decided she wanted to recreate that same show of support in Iowa, so at the suggestion of Reverend Wendy Abrahamson (of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Grinnell) the two reached out to Imam Taha Tawil at the Mother Mosque to do just that.
What was to be a small gesture of support ended up drawing hundreds of participants spanning all faiths and backgrounds. Bustin referenced the national attention Iowa has received lately due to bigoted statements by Rep. Steve King and said, “Today we are showing the world that Iowa is better than Steve King. Iowa is better than hatred. Iowa is better than xenophobia. We’re showing the world that Iowans stand for diversity; we stand for peace; we stand for love.”
Following Bustin’s remarks the Mother Mosques’ Imam Tawil spoke about the outpouring of support and gifts that have come to the Mosque recently and the Mother Mosque as a symbol of America’s diversity and pluralism and the history of Muslims in America.
“This multi-faith rally in support of Muslims in America at the Mother Mosque of America shows your true American spirit of tolerance, acceptance, and above all your support of the freedom of religion in America,” he said.
Following the Imam’s speech representatives from Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Meskwaki Nation and Atheist groups spoke in support of Muslims and their right to practice their faith. Donnielle Wanatee, a member of the Meskwaki, empathized with the plight of Muslims in America: “It was only 1978 where they passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, where we could practice our own religion in our own ways.”
She went on to say “It isn’t about one group. It’s about all of us … All together.” The crowd then sang “This Land Is Your Land” before a few closing remarks form Imam Tawil. Then event closed with the crowd encircling Mosque in a moment of quiet fellowship.