In the predawn chill of a weekday in early spring, at an East Village mosque the entryway shelves were brimming with the shoes of worshipers. Favored footwear styles were sturdy tennis shoes and dusty work boots, most with well-worn heels.

Inside, more than 200 men knelt side by side on emerald green carpeting, knees resting on the magenta stripes that run diagonally across the room to ensure that worshipers face Mecca. The men murmured prayers in Arabic and listened to the hum of the imam’s voice over the loudspeaker. Around 6:40 a.m., the congregants began to file out, jostling for space in the small foyer, hopping on one foot to pull on socks, then wiggling into their shoes. African men moved past Pakistanis, Arabs and African-Americans as they all emerged into the gray morning light. Many headed for taxis parked on the streets flanking the Madina Masjid, at 401 E. 11th St. at First Ave.

Uddim Akmmonir, a Bengali cabdriver, comes here for the morning prayer almost every day from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens. He wakes up around 4:30 a.m. to make it to the 6:30 a.m. prayer, after which he starts his workday.

“Before 7 o’clock, I don’t take nobody,” he said. “First I come here to pray.”

New York City is home to around 600,000 Muslims and has more than 100 mosques and Islamic cultural centers serving largely immigrants, their children and African-American Muslims. Estimates of the U.S. Muslim population range from 5 million to 8 million. More accurate numbers are hard to get since the census does not collect data on religious affiliation.

New York’s Muslims have emigrated from a wide swath of the planet, covering North and West Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. They bring different cultural experiences and different languages, but share their faith.

“We come from other countries, but we haven’t left our religion,” said Mohammed Nasir Uddin, president of Madina Masjid’s 13-member executive council.


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