Dancing about architecture.
February 2, 2012 4:00 PM   Subscribe

Muslim America moves away from the minaret. 'In post 9/11 America the construction of new mosques in the US has sometimes sparked controversy and even confrontation.' Now there appears to be an increasing trend to build new mosques in the US without some of the architectural features most commonly associated with the traditional Muslim houses of worship. '"It's a bad time for Islamic architecture," says Mr Ahmed, former Pakistani ambassador to the UK. But the Islamic Center of America in Michigan features imposing traditional domes and minarets "If there was some visionary with money who wanted to build the Taj Mahal in the US, he'd be attacked as a stealth Jihadist."'

'For centuries, domes and minarets have been an integral part of the architecture of mosques around the world. But now, Muslim communities are exploring new concepts in the design of their places of worship.

Some are fearful ostentatious architecture could provoke an anti-Muslim backlash. But other Muslim thinkers say mosque designs need to be redeveloped to serve the needs of the growing and diverse American Muslim community.

"I don't think identity should be based on symbols only," says Haris Tarin, director of the Washington DC office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

"Identity has to be based on the fact that you are part of a community, part of something bigger than you."'
posted by VikingSword (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
this is sad. so often i feel like we all stepped into an alternate dimension on 9/11 and any day now we're going to be popped back into reality.
posted by nadawi at 4:05 PM on February 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


After looking at the photo of the Islamic Centre of America, I think it's quite an attractive building. I really don't see how a minaret is all that different from a steeple, as long as local height laws are followed there isn't an issue..
posted by Harpocrates at 4:11 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Noo! Minarets are beautiful!!
posted by New England Cultist at 4:13 PM on February 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ironic that the two large World Trade Center buildings that fell were essentially an homage to the minaret.
posted by phaedon at 4:15 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Folks who think minarets are insidious would likely lose it completely if they heard an Islamic call to prayer in their neighborhood. But it's sure nice to hear those church bells.
posted by exogenous at 4:25 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


The architecture hegemony strikes again.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 4:25 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my town, the Muslim mosque is a completely non-descript building that looks like a dentist's office. The Vedic cultural center is bright pink (and on flyers advertising events, they call it the "happy pink building"). And the various Christian churches range from UFO-attacking-the-junior-college to Brutalism-meets-more-Brutalism.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:28 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


People really suck sometimes.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:29 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The call to prayer could be made on electronic devices and the dome is completely unnecessary..."

>>"Folks who think minarets are insidious would likely lose it completely if they heard an Islamic call to prayer in their neighborhood."

I hope this leads to a horribly slippery slope that culminates in Jummah prayer on a Funktion One rig... no minarets necessary.
posted by raihan_ at 4:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


My town has a church in the mall, a synagogue in an old Y building, and an ashram in a split-level ranch.
A mosque without minarets would be "just another church", mainstream if you like.

I don't see this as a bad thing.

Of course, if you want to build domes, go right ahead, but American religion is all about picking and choosing. Tradition comes second.
posted by madajb at 4:33 PM on February 2, 2012


Next stop - Imam Holes.
posted by pompomtom at 4:33 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


If there was some visionary with money who wanted to build the Taj Mahal in the US, he'd be attacked as a stealth Jihadist.

Donald Trump is a stealth Jihadist? o_O
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:43 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ironic that the two large World Trade Center buildings that fell were essentially an homage to the minaret.

What? Weren't they just kinda featureless rectangles jutting into the sky? I remember them as being pretty ugly.
posted by Malor at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2012


"Folks who think minarets are insidious would likely lose it completely if they heard an Islamic call to prayer in their neighborhood."


I really don't approve of church bells either, so that must count for something.
posted by Malice at 4:47 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Folks who think minarets are insidious would likely lose it completely if they heard an Islamic call to prayer in their neighborhood.

Any advertisement blasted through my neighborhood by megaphones five times a day would definately make me lose it.
posted by Winnemac at 4:48 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Malor: "What? Weren't they just kinda featureless rectangles jutting into the sky? I remember them as being pretty ugly."

Not exactly.
posted by mkb at 4:58 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not exactly.

If you want massive lulz, before being commissioned to build the WTC, Yamasaki designed Dhahran airport in Saudi Arabia - built by the Bin Laden family, and staging area for the US Air Force.
posted by phaedon at 5:04 PM on February 2, 2012


Yamasaki designed Dhahran airport in Saudi Arabia - built by the Bin Laden family,

And here's a relevant article about that.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:23 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The minaret was an architectural feature designed to facilitate the call to prayer. You build a tower high up so the sound can carry over street-level noise. It's completely irrelevant now, because the call to prayer is available as an app for the iPhone.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:29 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


People still give the call to prayer in mosques using their voice. iPhone apps and other automated methods will never supplant it, because doing it live is part of the prayer. Minarets are not part of the integrals of Islam (and the first call to prayer was given standing on a wall of an open-air mosque), but they can be useful as beacons for mosques. Most also have loudspeakers that broadcast the muezzin's live call.

But I think it's silly to see non-Muslims make statements about how the call to prayer is irrelevant now that there is an app for that.
posted by Burhanistan at 5:41 PM on February 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


@twoleftfeet

oh awesome, another cool and pretty thing replaced by a little white plastic screen box in your hand that can do it cheaper and more efficiently

awesome, i love ipodes, i want an ipyd in my head

in the future we are all ipods
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 5:55 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any advertisement blasted through my neighborhood by megaphones five times a day would definately make me lose it.

Maybe not. I was lucky enough to live on the Southside of Birmingham, AL during the 80's and early 90's, and we had a mosque, and they did the call to prayer all five times a day without amplification , and it was sort of like a moment to pause and reflect without getting face down by government fiat. You could go about your business and just have a reminder in the air, sort of like the Episcopalian church bells every morning, or the Catholic chimes on the hour.

As long as you don't have to drop, fold and lick the pavement, it's a gentle reminder to do better if you can. I regarded this and all the flowers and blooming plants everywhere to just try to be a better human being.

YMMV, of course.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 6:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Big, single-purpose places of worship are expensive. Churches are being sold off left and right, for example. I can't say I blame anyone for not wanting to dive headlong into that money pit.

I don't recall ever seeing a proper mosque with minarets here in Canada. Lots of Islamic Centres, though: Plain buildings with signs out front. That's probably the best way to go, for all kinds of reasons.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:46 PM on February 2, 2012


Eh ... isn't this just another ordinary example of American Assimilation?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:56 PM on February 2, 2012


Eh ... isn't this just another ordinary example of American Assimilation?

I hope ao. It's the only thing that we're really, really good at.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 7:02 PM on February 2, 2012


noooooooooooooooo we need more domes. Not fewer.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:23 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


"If there was some visionary with money who wanted to build the Taj Mahal in the US, he'd be attacked as a stealth Jihadist."'

Not the least because he'd be importing bunches of Persians to design & build it for him.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:33 PM on February 2, 2012


Localization and adapation of mosque architecture in the US would be well and good and natural were it not being obviously driven by hostility from the larger society.

Interestingly, the dome, and often the minaret, were not features of the mosques traditionally built in SE Asia. In mosques without minarets, large hollow-log drums would be beaten to get everyone's attention before the adhan was called. Nowadays in Malaysia, you can find mosques with huge domes and minarets in almost every style of the greater islamic world, and they're beautiful, but I wish there were more adaptations of the local tiered-roof mosque style being built here.
posted by BinGregory at 7:43 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some Eastern Orthodox churches make use of similar-looking "onion domes".

Other Christian churches have also used domes, sometimes leading to confusion.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 8:30 PM on February 2, 2012


Actually, the very earliest mosques did not have domes, it a borrowing from Byzantine church arquitecture.

Smaller mosques in Bosnia often have red tile roofs or if they are very old, they may have slate roofs.
These mosques are very plain on the outside, but inside have wonderful woodwork.
I think it is sad that any people does or does not do things out of fear.
I saw a couple abrasively modern designs for mosques in Sarajevo.
I don't like modern churches that look like space craft disguised as washing-machine parts either. I guess a little bit of tradition is a good thing. I can certainly see making any space for worship friendly. There is nothing wrong with beauty though.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:27 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some Eastern Orthodoxc? "Onion domes" are built in Switzerland. Took me by surprise.

But the REAL BIG laugh to me, is the classic design of a mosque is, essentially, a copy of the Hagia Sophia, an ancient Christian church, built in Constantinople (Istanbul), with added minarets, and typically with ceramic tile. Mind, the Turks converted the Hagia Sophia into a mosque in the first place, before they built the Blue Mosque. But that pile-of-domes architecture is totally Hagia Sophia.
posted by Goofyy at 10:29 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


with added minarets

Another real big laugh is that the church steeple is likely an adaptation of the minaret.

I saw a couple abrasively modern designs for mosques in Sarajevo.

I heard this was the result of the usual Saudi deal: we'll fund your new mosque as long as it looks like a bomb shelter and is staffed by an imam we approve.

Wanted to mention too that muslims in the US have been building non-descript mosques out of fear since long before 9/11. The mosque in my college town, built I think in the 80s, was a squat, drab building set far back from the road with a sign at the front saying:

Islamic
Community Center Of My Town
posted by BinGregory at 11:30 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Other Christian churches have also used domes, sometimes leading to confusion.

Are people really under the impression that all domes are somehow inherently Muslim?

"Ever look at a nickel, man? There's some spooky shit goin' on there."

Secret Muslims much, America?

Bonus Secret Mosque.

Don't even get me started, Florida.

posted by Sys Rq at 11:35 PM on February 2, 2012


My town has a church in the mall, a synagogue in an old Y building, and an ashram in a split-level ranch.

America really is gross.
posted by atrazine at 3:55 AM on February 3, 2012


We've got this right along I-75 between Bowling Green and Toledo. It's a beautiful building though somewhat bizarre so see sitting in the middle of corn field. I think it may have been built somewhat cheaply, too, or at least without understanding of the kind of winds we get up here in NW Ohio. Shortly after the Islamic Center was built, one of the minarets would occasionally get blown down by gusts of wind. We joked that they had fired off one of their missiles. (We were young and immature then. Now we go there for the annual International Festival and partake of yummy yummy shawarma, music and tours.)
posted by charred husk at 7:11 AM on February 3, 2012


My town is currently in the beginning stages of a Huge To-Do about the local Muslim group trying to build a mosque on unzoned land outside the city limits which they legally bought and paid for and upon which there are no legal restrictions about what you can build. Many of the other residents of the town, especially those who live nearest the land for the future mosque, are flipping out and plastering signs all over their yards which say, simply, JESUS, and making public arguments at city council meetings that this is a Christian community, and simultaneously claiming that it's "not about religion." (Fucking pathetic.)

The people who want to build the mosque and community center have already said they won't be building it to "look Muslim," they won't be doing any calls to prayer, it will just be a plain little building replacing the one dude's apartment that the city's 35 or so Muslims have been crowding into for worship for the past 20 years. You can bet this one won't have any minarets. If they even manage to build it without Something Happening it'll end up looking like a shed. It's sad.
posted by titus n. owl at 8:45 AM on February 3, 2012


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