30Mosques.com | Day 22: Albanian Islamic Cultural Center

By Aman and Bassam

Staten Island definitely has some of the most precious hidden gems in New York City’s Muslim community. So tonight Bassam and I were joined by our homey Jordan Robinson and together we hopped on a ferry to Staten Island to do some treasure hunting. Hello Statue of Liberty.


We got off the ferry and took a short cab ride to our destination the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center. Before I begin our story, just take a few moments and soak in how majestic this building is.



The Albanian community is fairly large in Staten Island, which came to fruition here in the late 1980s. After a few years, the community got together and built this mosque and the building you see now has been in existence since the mid 1990s. They also have a full time Islamic school that started off with only a handful of Pre-Kindergarteners in the mid 90’s and today has over 200 students and has classes up to 11th grade.

As soon as we walked in the building our curiosity was immediately piqued by the soothing dhikr we heard on the loudspeaker. We slowly found our way to this large gathering inside the main prayer hall of people remembering Allah through some soothing dhikr. I should also mention this mosque is fairly hi-tech, they had a camera man working a switchboard broadcasting the feed in the prayer room to other areas of the building where the women were sitting.


After the dhikr session, we broke our fast with dixie cups of water and prayed. The imam’s recitation was incredible. This may sound hokey, but his voice sounded a lot like a perfect pitch violin, the way his voice glided seamlessly from letter to letter in his recitation. You couldn’t help but close your eyes and take it all in.


After prayer, a long line formed in front of the imam, as people patiently waited to greet him. His name was Dhul Qarnain and is a hafiz of Quraan that got his Islamic education from Al-Azhar University in Cairo. I briefly said hello to the imam and told him about the 30 mosques project. He said he had heard of it (yay!) and encouraged us to head downstairs and eat food with the congregation.

Round one of food was this rice soup. We asked the people around us what was in it and many of them were not sure. But we definitely tasted some chicken in there too.


Dinner was just as good, steak and rice with a side of vegetables. The mosque has its own chef that prepared the food, may Allah reward him for his talent.

But the food didn’t compared to our true experience at the mosque. We sat among many of the younger kids in the community just picking their brains a bit about the community.

After a few minutes of breaking the ice, I mentioned the word “Call of Duty 4″ and immediately a group of kids swarmed me. We had a blast during dinner cracking jokes. One thing I really love is seeing younger kids come to mosques because they genuinely enjoy being there, not because they are dragged by their parents. Its kids like these that make me feel good about where the Muslim community as a whole is headed in this country.


One thing that surprised me about this community is the fact that this mosque doesn’t do any fundraising to sustain itself. Many times, you go to mosques that have these huge annual fundraisers that they depend on to survive, almost like a quarterback in football throwing a hail mary pass with less than 10 seconds left in the 4th quarter (sorry, NFL season starts this weekend and its heavily on my mind lol).

But this place is clearly different. Not only is there a sense of pride among the people in this mosque, but the people here have a genuine sense of love for their mosque.

Anyone that is frustrated about not being able to fundraise at their own mosque really should visit this place. Because here is a small community of mostly Albanians that had a love for their religion so strong that they were able to create something so majestic with patience and time.

Anyone can shell out money, but it takes true character to shell out love.

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