Rector Street Mosque

For many years, experts who study the 19th and early 20th Arabic-speaking immigration to the United States had claimed that it was almost exclusively Christian. As a result, despite Little Syria's location in Lower Manhattan, it was rarely mentioned as part of the Muslim-American experience. However, because we occasionally saw Muslim names in historical records, we always believed that eventually we would find more evidence supporting a significant Muslim presence, including houses of worship.

Through the research of University of Colorado scholar Patrick D. Bowen, in 2015, we learned that the Ottoman government had established a small masjid in a commercial building at 17 Rector Street in Lower Manhattan at around 1910. This information had been in the public domain in an English-language article in New York Sun written in 1912, but no scholar had previously written about it. The masjid’s Imam, Mehmet Ali, was a colorful figure who was also an employee of the Ottoman diplomatic service. Apparently, his employment was linked to political goals of the Ottoman Empire, but these have not yet been fully explained.

We then worked to publicize this discovery, sending it to several media outlets including The New York Times. We stressed that this might be the first immigrant mosque in the United States with an employed imam. Its distance of only 3 blocks from the future site of the World Trade Center is hard to know what to make of, but it attracted some interest.

We hope to do more research into the history of the mosque and make it better known to the public.

New York Times, December 9, 2015:

PIX11, December 11, 2015:

Middle East Eye, December 29, 2015:

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