Tracker Pixel for Entry

​Little mosque on the prairie

Culture | August 12th, 2016

By Tessa Torgeson

There is a piece of history smack dab amidst the seas of wheat and corn, cattle, and derricks in northwestern North Dakota. A crescent moon and star fence along with a tiny cinder block structure with an aluminum dome and minarets pierce the vast blue sky. This structure was the first mosque built in America, right on the outskirts of the 90-person town of Ross, North Dakota, in the oil patch.

Although it is not active, President Obama mentioned this beautiful hidden gem when he was reflecting upon the history of American Muslims in February during his first visit to a mosque.

Syrian-Lebanese immigrants built the original mosque in 1929, settling in North Dakota because of The Homestead Act. While North Dakota is known as a Christian state with predominantly German, Russian, and Scandinavian immigrants, Islam is actually the second-most practiced religion in North Dakota. This was a surprising statistic found in The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies census that was recently published in The Washington Post.

According to the Islamic Society of Fargo-Moorhead, there are about 6000 Muslims in the Red River Valley alone. Even though the number of Muslims on the oil patch is unknown and the mosque fell into disrepair, it was replaced in 2005 thanks to a collaboration between the founder's’ descendants and neighboring Christians. The mosque and grounds are still maintained by retired electrician Richard Omar, the son of the founders.

Just like nearby rural Christian churches, there is also a cemetery surrounding the mosque. Traditional Islamic names like Omar are etched into tombstones along with Norwegian ones like Benson. While it is true that death is the great equalizer, this also illustrates that differing religions and cultures have been quietly coexisting for over a century even in prairies of the Midwest. This is tangible proof that unity is possible even in a divisive, turbulent political landscape where Muslims are victims of discrimination, hate crimes, and even an immigration ban proposed by presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, Trump and his followers use the terroristic actions of fringe Islamic extremists to define the entire Islamic religion, thus discriminating and stereotyping the Muslim community. Prejudice against Muslims also called Islamophobia is “the last sanctioned racism,” writes Edward Said, author of “Covering Islam.” Even though violence is a violation of the central tenets of Islam, the mainstream media do not portray it as a peaceful religion, though they are quick to dismiss Christian terrorism as the work of extremists.

As the golden light dances upon the dome of the mosque while the sun sinks into the horizon and cicadas hum in nearby fields, it is sad to believe that people vilify Islam as a violent religion.

This little mosque on the prairie is a lesson that the ties that bind us together are greater than the ones that threaten to break us apart.

Recently in:

Growing Together Opens New GardenBy Annie Prafckehttps://www.facebook.com/annie.prafcke20 May 2021On April 15th, Growing Together held a groundbreaking for the opening of its newest gardens at Gethsemane Cathedral. The space, which…

By Michael M. Millermichael.miller@ndsu.edu17 June 2021The Lehr Tabernacle near Lehr, N.D., celebrates its 100th Centennial with events on June 18-20, 2021. The Tabernacle, also known as Prairie Bible Camp, was featured in an…

2021 Summer Calendar Toby KeithMay 21, 7pmBismarck Event Center, 315 SOUTH 5TH STREET BISMARCKTickets $25-$175, pre-party starts at 5pm.Heart and Soul May 22, 9pmThe Aquarium, 226 N BroadwayR & B, Smooth Jazz, Funk, Neo-Soul and…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021Our opinion: Let’s work together instead of against each other.Think of where we are now in comparison to last year. Think of what we’ve learned since and how this is affecting our…

Ed Raymondfargogadfly@gmail.com29 July 2021This Is About the Religious-Rich-QAnon-White Supremacist-Trumplican CultThere are hundreds of thousands of cults in countries and societies around the world that have played or are playing…

To say that this year’s Bartenders Battle was the best display of talent in the six years since its creation would be an understatement and a disservice to not only the bartenders who made it into the competition, but also the…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021With Grand Forks being a hop skip and a cruise away from Fargo-Moorhead, our neighbors to the north have some great dining options. Whether you’re planning on spending a weekend or…

Sabrina Hornungsabrina@hpr1.com15 July 2021“We have a guy that's been involved with the show for many years as a landlord and knew what it was like in the heydays. So he knows where he wants to take it.” says WE Fest General…

by Greg Carlsongregcarlson1@gmail.com24 June 2021Mariem Perez Riera’s “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It” Stops in Theaters Before Date with “American Masters”On the heels of criticism for defending…

Alicia Underlee Nelson  alicia@hpr1.comDowntown scored a new mural from The Greetings Tour, a project that aims to create a mural in the style of…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comDrag shows, for me, feel like a celebration of artistry, esthetic, music, and camaraderie. With a dash of confetti thrown in.The local drag community is a close-knit family. Giving back to affiliated…

by Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comAdam Quesnell's last show at The Cellar beneath the Front Street Taproom in Fargo was in early September of 2018. He was embarking on a seminal move from Minneapolis to LA. As always, his comedy was…

By Kris Gruberperriex1@gmail.comSpring is here (mostly), and our area is buzzing with people eager to get back out and about -- many newly vaccinated and feeling a bit safer. Partnering with Jade Events, Fargo Brewing is just…

by Laurie J Bakeremsdatter@gmail.com Part of modern yoga is participating in the world around us. We live in a time of upheaval in society and nature, and of great suffering in humans of all ages. Most of us perceive this suffering…

By Theresa L. Goodrichsubmit@hpr1.comIt was day ten of our epic southwest road trip and we’d made it to Arizona. After camping in Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and New Mexico, we were exhausted, but fortunately our night in…

by Annie Prafckesubmit@hpr1.com17 June 2021On June 19th, from 12pm to 7pm, nonprofit Faith4Hope Scholarship Fund is hosting their first ever Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lindenwood Park in Fargo. It is free and open to the…