New York City, NY
Muslims have been woven into the fabric of New York since the city’s origins as New Amsterdam, and today New York’s diverse Muslim community—immigrant and American-born, from multiple racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds—constitutes an estimated 3% of the city’s population, some 270,000 people living in all five boroughs. They represent an important part of the diversity that the Museum of the City of New York’s rich photography collection chronicles.
Muslim in New York features 34 images by four photographers who have documented Muslim New Yorkers from the mid-20th to the early 21st century. Works by Alexander Alland date to ca. 1940, a time when New York’s diverse Muslim community included Arabs, Turks, Afghans, East Indians, Albanians, Malayans, African Americans, and others. Photographs by Ed Grazda come from his 1990s project “New York Masjid: The Mosques of New York City,” and cover both immigrant populations and native New York Muslims, including converts, the long-standing African-American community, and a growing Latino Muslim community. Mel Rosenthal’s photographs of Arab New York Muslims from the early 2000s were commissioned for the Museum of the City of New York’s exhibition A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York (2002). Robert Gerhardt’s images, a promised gift to the Museum’s collections, document Muslim New Yorkers in the early 2010s.
Together these photographs paint a group portrait of New Yorkers who have greatly enriched the life of the city.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether or not you go, New York Masjid / Mosques Of New York is an insightful and unbiased account of a much-maligned and rapidly growing culture around the world, taken in perhaps the one place in the world where all manifestations of religious adherents live and work: New York City. The project took root on February 26, 1993 in the midst of an urban crisis: the World Trade Center bombing. But ultimately more destructive to the city at that time were the tidal waves of toxic and reductive one-line headlines that followed in the written and televised media: “Muslim Terrorist,” leaving a kind of easy, familiar code name for terror.
To counteract this stereotype, scholar Jerrilynn D. Dodds joined forces with photographer Edward Grazda to document the Islamic presence in New York by focusing on the places Muslims congregate to worship their god—the Mosque.
The book features photographs, essays, and interviews documenting the mosques that New York’s Muslim communities have built at their center, revealing the ways these buildings reflect and create identities for Muslims within a dense and diverse urban fabric.