Cedar Rapids’ Muslim center receives kindness, care from community

The Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids was overwhelmed by the support of the community as letters poured in shortly following the announcement of Trump’s Muslim Ban.


Gifts and letters from community on display at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids. Photo provided by Afnan Elshiekh.

Elizabeth Barrett

It is the longest standing mosque in existence in North America to this date, and, it’s located right here in Cedar Rapids, IA. Construction of The Mother Mosque of America was completed in February 1934 and may be the oldest mosque in North America — but due to its smaller size, the mosque cannot fit the needs of the Cedar Rapids Muslim community, thus a larger mosque was built — The Islamic Center.

Recently, the Islamic Center was overwhelmed by the support of the Cedar Rapids area as letters poured in shortly following the announcement of President Trump’s travel ban from seven majority-Muslim countries.

In an show of community, Cedar Rapids locals sent letters of love and acceptance to the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids. 

“I loved all of the letters but the one that really got me was one that came from a prison. The guy had converted in prison and was asking our Imam for guidance at a hard time,” said Afnan Elshiekh, a Kennedy senior who practices Islam at the Cedar Rapids Islamic Center where the letters were sent. “It got to me because he asked similar questions to what was going on in my head. It assured me of the allies I have.”

The letters were sent in from individuals and organizations alike, some signed with a single signature, some sent anonymously, and some even boasting a full roster of names signed across the card.

“We know your community has been an integral part of Cedar Rapids for a long time, and we appreciate the gifts your members, both old and new, bring to our community. We want you to know we will stand with you through these difficult times, and we will do what we can to aid you,” read one card from the People’s Church Unitarian Universalist.

The Islamic Center acts as as a place for prayer, and also as a community center, hosting potlucks, providing childcare services, and acting as a general meeting space for those directly and indirectly involved with the community.

“I wanted you to know that my heart breaks for all those affected by this ban and by the atmosphere in this country right now…. We will overcome,” read another card from a community member.

Another card writer explained, “My family knows your religion teaches love and compassion for all.” 

“You are welcome, you make our communities wonderful. We are in this together.” read one more card, signed anonymously with a single heart.

“I want you to know that I support you and am grateful that you are here. I will not allow you to suffer alone,” read a final postcard, signed in solidarity from a University of Iowa student.

Elshiekh said she was “overjoyed” by the letters. “They came at a time where I began losing hope in my country. The letters renewed my faith in our community.”