A delegation of students from the Harvard Islamic Society (HIS) joined more than 2,000 congregants in Roxbury, Mass., on Friday night to attend the first-ever prayer session at the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) Cultural Center, which finally opened its doors after two decades of controversy and delays.
“I feel very comfortable—like at home,” HIS President Shaheer A. Rizvi ’08 said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”
Rizvi and several other HIS members made the 25-minute subway trip to the event on the 16th day of the holy month of Ramadan.
The opening of the ISB Cultural Center, which includes a mosque, library, and school, had been opposed by several activist groups who expressed concern over alleged ISB ties to terrorists and anti-Semitic groups, and the purchase of the site raised some legal objections.
The mosque is now the largest on the East Coast, according to Hossam AlJabri, president of Muslim American Society (MAS).
Organized by MAS, Friday’s event featured recitations from the Qur’an by recognized Muslim reciter Sheikh Mohamed Jebril, who traveled from Egypt to lead the prayers.
While he spoke, children weaved between prayer rug stands and bake sale tables. Attendees mingled in the courtyard while snacking on baghrir—a North African pancake stuffed with almonds, coconuts, and honey—breaking their fast from the daylight hours.
“It’s not just a mosque—it’s a symbol. It’s more than just a building, it’s a place that holds a community together,” said Salimah Hankins, lead organizer for the event.
AlJabri added that “the center will allow us to ‘take back the mic’ and to answer the questions everyone has about Islam and Muslims.”
“We can no longer afford to let the extremists define us. We can no longer allow Osama bin Laden to define Islam for the world,” he said. (MORE)