John Manbeck Visits Dawood Mosque on State Street

Eagle contributor and former Brooklyn Borough Historian John Manbeck recently toured Turkey, and was impressed by the respectful and friendly treatment he received in this predominantly Muslim country. On returning to Brooklyn, he decided to look into the history and present state of Islam here. Islam has a long standing presence in Brooklyn, initially brought here by African slaves, Brooklyn having had one of the largest slave populations in the North. Immigrants from the Middle East and South Asia later greatly increased the number of Muslims here. Manbeck learned that there are over twenty mosques in Brooklyn, in various parts of the Borough. One of these, the Dawood Mosque, named, Manbeck notes, “for its Jamaican founder, Sheik Dawood Faisal”, is located at 127 State Street, here in the Heights. He decided to visit it for a Sabbath service.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle: The Dawood Mosque’s Friday noon Sabbath service on Nov. 19 had a guest clergyman, Imam Abdelhamid. I was met at the bottom of the brownstone’s steps by Dr. Ahmad Jaber, president of the Arab American Association of New York and current president of the Brooklyn Heights Clergy Association. Inside the door, we removed our shoes just as I had done in Turkey. Women, very fashionably dressed, are permitted but must worship on the second floor out of the sight of men.

The sermon was given from a short pulpit by the imam dressed in white robes…The service began with a call to worship, similar to the calls from minarets that we heard five times a day in Turkey. The subject, with quotes from the Qu’ran, was about friendship, sharing, hospitality and maintaining contact with one’s family.

In my impression, Islam—meaning “peace” in Arabic—is a very gentle religion based on much prayer. The congregation was attentive with occasional bows to the East and quiet calls to Allah, just as “Hallelujahs” spot some Christian sermons. A closing chant concluded the service. After the service, everyone near me greeted me, shaking hands just as I had seen in Turkey.

Manbeck goes on to argue that “[t]he radicalism that has been protested in America refers to an extremist fringe extant in every religion just as fanatics anywhere will maim and kill in the vain attempt to pacify their version of God.”

In 2009 two young men, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq, decided to visit a different mosque in New York city on each of the thirty days of the holy month of Ramadan. This was documented in a blog, 30 Mosques in 30 Days. Ali’s visit to the Dawood Mosque is chronicled in this post, which includes an interior view of the Mosque, as well as photos of the food and drink served after sundown to break the daily Ramadan fast. (Photo by

Share this Story:

, , , , , , , , ,

  • WillowtownCop

    I would never take part in anything that takes place in the following manner: “Women … are permitted but must worship on the second floor out of the sight of men.”

    If you expect people to be tolerant of your beliefs, you should also be tolerant of their gender. One is by choice, the other is not.

  • nabeguy

    Well put WC.

  • AEB

    Ditto, WC.

  • ByMonday

    So I assume you wouldn’t step foot in a church or synagogue neither?

    “Women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak, but should be submissive, as the law also says.” (1 Corinthians 14:34)

    “Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering.” (1 Corinthians 11:13-15)

  • Ahmad

    Well said ByMonday. However, blind racists will not accept the logic. To them no amount of crimes by Judeo_christian ideology is sufficient that can be blamed.

  • Publius

    Fatual correction of the Brooklyn Eagle article. Though originally derived from the verb for “peace” – salaam in Arabic, the word Islam actually means “submission”. Quite different.

  • Fraction

    As I’m sure is true with the Quran, it’s pretty easy to take a Bible verse out of context. I’m glad ByMonday posted this comment. It made me curious enough to go check out the verses and dig a bit deeper into their meaning. Here’s what I found out:

    1 Corinthians 14:34 : Various interpretations can be applied to this verse. In a literal translation, “silent” is the common term used to describe the Greek word verb “sigao”, however, the term has a very different meaning. Sigao is found 19 times throughout the Bible.

    Sigao is not a word that can be appropriately translated one Greek word for one English word. “Silent” is just what has been chosen as the closest literal single word translation, but not necessarily a close translation at all. I don’t know what the best translation is, but I’m confident the intent of the verse is not being properly communicated.

    1 Corinthians 14:34 Paul is talking to the disorderly Corinthian community. In the verses around this, he is discussing the use of prophecy in Church. Paul is trying to develop order in the community and more specifically in the church. There shouldn’t be a lot of random chatter when God’s word is being presented. He’s trying to establish a decorum of sorts.

    1 Corinthians 11:13-15:

    First, check this out: 1 Corinthians 11:3
    “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”

    What’s interesting about this is that this verse explains that “the head” in 1 Corinthians 11:13-15 is not referring to what’s above your neck. It’s a figurative reference to the head of the spiritual body.

    I feel that I covered the basic reasoning for why you can’t take a few verses out of the English version of the Bible and apply it without understanding the context of the scripture around the verses in question. Much like when using Google Translate, you have to do some research to gain a full understanding of what is being stated.

    Secondly, It’s easy to see where the Church stands on matters such as this one by going to a church and taking a look at the environment. In my Church (a more conservative non-denominational Church), we have Women leading the business of some aspects of the Church as well as Men. Women are free to be involved in the church as much as they feel compelled to do so. I haven’t been to a mosque, so I only know what I read, but it doesn’t look like the same kind of equality exists in Islam. Maybe Ahmad or ByMonday can share about the freedoms women have in Islam.

  • davoyager

    Well this is quite the bit of do isn’t it?

    So, how bout that Arsenic based life form? Think we’ll find Arciniophiles any time soon?


  • WillowtownCop

    “So I assume you wouldn’t step foot in a church or synagogue neither?”

    You’re damn right I wouldn’t. If men don’t want to see me, they can close their eyes.

  • WillowtownCop

    Why on earth would you assume I was a Christian or a Jew because I have a problem with sexism?

  • AL

    WC I didn’t read that assumption into ByMonday’s comment, which, by the way, contains a double negative thus saying the opposite of what BM intended.

    I’m troubled by sexism. At least it’s openly stated in places of worship. In corporate America, it’s hidden. The glass ceiling has been cracked but not removed. Some still don’t even acknowledge it exists.

  • WillowtownCop


    By Monday was quoting sexist passages from the Bible. Why bother unless he/she thinks the Bible is something more to me than a really, really boring book?


    I lead an entirely secular life. I was neither born nor raised Jewish, Christian, or “blind racist,” as you seem to think because I dare question a backwards, sexist tradition.

    I’m sure there are some Churches/Temples/Mosques, etc. that don’t take everything literally and understand their holy books as a product of the times in which they were written (I seem to recall a Bible passage about how to treat your slaves). If everyone is included, welcomed, and treated equally at these places, I don’t have a problem with them or the people who go there.

  • Missy

    Women were always permitted to worship in mosques. While some have a problem with the word “permitted” they should consider why it’s used. They should understand that it’s not addressing women but instead, it’s telling men (ignorant men who follow culture instead of Islam) that they should never stop women from entering a mosque for any reason. The Prophet never did and one will never find it written in the Quran. Also while some people use their time at any house of worship for complete remembrance of God, others use it to gossip, socialize, at to check out the opposite sex. Separating women and men at the time of worship is to ensure that there are no distractions. Also, Muslims prostrate to God several times during prayer and if a woman is doing that in front of a man or vice versa, I assure you, the person behind will no longer be able to concentrate on God.

  • davoyager

    Ever notice how when a dog pees on a spot all the other dogs in the neighborhood have to pee on the same spot?

  • Y

    As usual the tolerant people seem to be quite intolerant. I think people with Children should not live here, neither should married people.

  • HH


    On what basis do you say that separation between men and women during prayer in a mosque is sexism? Why it can’t be what Islam says is the real reason. That’s to keep the heart of men and women clean. In Islam both men and women are commanded to keep their gaze low, don’t mingle with each other unless necessary ( inside a mosque or outside) etc. When men and women and men mingle freely in any society adultery and fornication gradually starts to take root. It is a fact which can’t be denied. So unless you think it is OK to fornicate and commit adultery you can’t possibly say Islam’s teaching on interaction between men and women is sexism.

    In any case you can find example of such separation in secular culture as well. How do you explain different rest rooms for men and women in virtually all public places, different dorms for male an female students in universities, different living spaces for women and men in shelters ( i volunteer for a homeless shelter and i know why it is important to keep them separate) etc etc?

  • Johny

    HH: you are scary

  • WillowtownCop


    Being “permitted” to go somewhere but only through the back door so no one else has to look at you because of your gender is sexist. If you don’t get that, there’s no hope for you.

    I would be insulted if I were a man by your insinuation that men can’t control themselves if they were to see a woman in a public place. Do you really think there’s @#$%ing in the rectory at the local church because women are “permitted” to sit in the same pews as men?

    I also don’t know what the hell you mean by “fornication” but if you mean two consenting adults having sex with each other it sounds like a good time to me.

  • WillowtownCop

    Oh, and HH-

    When there’s a line for the women’s bathroom, I go in the men’s.

  • AEB

    HH, Puritanism, sexual shame, fear of sexual freedom (see the preceding two terms), misogyny, primitive and/or obtuse belief die hard.

    However, progress has be–and is being–made.

  • HH


    There is no hope for irrationality. And secularism is irrational at it best. Muslim men are permitted in mosque and Muslim women permitted in a mosque. Both are “permitted” in their own separate spaces. If you can’t understand what “permitted” means then you need to go and study some English. Islam doesn’t teach that men or women can’t control their urges. Rather it says that they MUST control their urges when do get into such a situation. But the best policy is mankind shouldn’t get into situations where there is any possibility of seeing or doing wrong. This principle not only limited to men/women relationship. It actually applies in so many different cases like financial transactions, work, home etc etc. And you will find umpteen examples of this principle even in your secular culture if you pay attention.

    In any case you couldn’t explain why there are separate spaces for female and men genders even in secular culture in many situations. It is actually based on very similar reasoning which is given in Islam’s holy books. Only thing is Muslim call this religion and secular people call it common sense. Islam is common sense and that’s why many people covert to Islam when they understand that what islam teaches is nothing but in accordance with human nature. no wonder Islam is fastest growing religion on in USA.

    Since you are for fornication, this is suffice to tell you that this one of the major failings of the modern secular culture. Not just Islam, every major religion prohibits sexual relation outside marriage. Don’t you want to stop and think why? Just because two adults consent doesn’t make it right. It is evil and it is wicked. It is God’s right upon human beings to tell us what to do and what not to do. Consent by individuals can’t over rule what God has deemed wrong.

    BTW , the secular culture is illogical and contradictory many times. Let me give you an extreme example just to illustrate my point. It says it is OK to indulge in fornication if two adults consent to it but it prohibits same thing if two consenting adult siblings indulge in it. This is called incest and it is prohibited in most secular countries. Can you explain why consent of two individual is OK in one case but not OK in another case?

  • HH


    Firstly Islam doesn’t say sex is wrong. It is actually for sex. Islam actually teaches that God rewards husband and wife when they have sex, becuase they are fulfilling their natual need in the legitimate (God approved ) way.

    Secondly the sexual freedom in the secular culture is not something to be celebrated and it is certainly no progress. It is actually wrong and one of the major causes of social meltdown. you just need to pay attention to whats going on around us.

    initially secular culture approved of sex between consenting adults of opposite sex even if unmarried.

    then it approved of sex between consenting adults of same sex.

    then it is starting to approve marriage between same sex ( in several countries it already approved)

    then it is discussing to approve sex between human and chimps/animals ( this already came up in some European parliaments for approval but got rejected). but it will come up again if history is any indication

    then it will approve marriage between humans and animals

    is this what you want the future to be?

  • AEB

    Because, HH, in one case–that of mutually agreed upon “fornication”–no harm is done.

    Incest can and usually does cause harm, both in terms of genetic risk when birth is a result, and psychological harm, particularly when children and siblings are involved.

    In such cases, the sequelae (to use a fancy word) are often profound and long-term guilt, shame, and loss of trust–not good things.

    Answer your question? One more thing: you assume that sex is OK if it occurs within marriage and not if it doesn’t. But for many of the world’s people marriage is not relevant to sexual expression; that is, they don’t define their sexual lives in terms of it.

  • AEB

    HH, get back to me–us–when “secular culture” approves of sex between humans and animals. Until then–stay kool!

  • HH

    If fornication is OK becomes it fits into definition of freedom then incest also should be OK for the same reason. Why not leave it to the siblings to decide whether not or it is harmful for them? If it is “guilt, shame, and loss of trust” etc etc them let them face the consequence of what they do. Secondly incest ( or sex in general for that matter) is not equivalent of having children. siblings can have sex without having children. and what if they are shameless, guiltless and they are indulging in it with full knowledge? why should society decide about them?

    also what if these same “guilt, shame, and loss of trust” can also be proven to be associated with fornication , so would you then change your mind and agree to ban this abomination?

  • HH

    “Because, HH, in one case–that of mutually agreed upon “fornication”–no harm is done.”

    How do you no harm is done? The harm may not be immediate and to immediate people who do it, but harm is there. single mothers, STDs, broken family etc are some of the well known consequences of fornication and adulterous life style.

    If fact Muhammad once said that a time will come when fornication and adultery will become very common, then people will be afflicted with such diseases that their forefather had known about it.

    This is one of the miracle of prophet. Isn’t it a fact that in our time adultery and fornication have become common. Isn’t it a fact that many STD like HIV and AIDS have become common as a consequence of such a lifestyle? How did prophet muhammed know about this? how could he prophesy accurately if he wasn’t the prophet of God?

  • WillowtownCop


    You asked AEB if he would “agree to ban this abomination” in reference to what you call “fornication.”

    The great thing about America is you can think whatever you like, no matter how backwards and stupid your “ideas” are. The problem I have with you is now you’re talking about banning things for people who don’t believe what you do. If you think we’re going to put up with that here, you’re wrong.

    So have fun worrying if sitting to close to a woman on the bus is going to lead to Europeans $%&#ing goats. I have better things to worry about that arguing with scary fundamentalists on the internet.

  • HH


    so you wouldn’t want to be rational. and you wouldn’t want to be consistent either.

    you think separate space for men and women in a mosque is sexism. but you think it NOT sexism if secular culture provides separate space for men and women in many cases for similar reasons.

    you think it is OK to ban incest. but you are NOT ok to ban fornication for the exact same reason.

    and when I point it to you, you call me fundamentalist. Actually you are one who is fundamentalist as you have no solid argument to defend your position. and this is the definition of a fundamentalist. i don’t see any good coming out by arguing with irrational, illogical secular fundamentalists like you. so this will be my last post on this chain.

    I am not saying what you can and can’t believe. Everyone is responsible for his own beliefs and deeds. I am just pointing out inconsistencies in the arguments of the people who are attacking Islam.

  • danbrooklyn

    If the issue is fornication and adultery, why doesn’t Islam ban all women from the sight of all men altogether, anywhere? Why aren’t restaurants, cafés and even cities segregated? If men can’t control themselves in the mosque when they are supposed to be focusing on worshipping God, they must even have more lustful thoughts encountering women while walking around in the neighbourhood. It seems pretty inconsistent to me.

    BTW, fornication and adultery have always been common. King David had 300 wives and 700 concubines. They’re just talked about more often these days.

    Finally, there is a biological predisposition against incest called the “incest taboo”. There isn’t against fornication. So this is an apples to oranges equivalence. But incest between consenting adults isn’t against the law in many jurisdictions. Rhode Island even repealed its incest law in 1989.

  • WillowtownCop


    I know I said I wasn’t going to say anymore, but I really don’t want you to have the last word.

    Where did I say that sex between any consenting adults, including relatives, should be criminalized? If people aren’t so grossed out by it and they don’t care about having screwed up children, then it really isn’t any of my business or yours (or the government’s).

    I also never said that I was for separate but equal bathroom facilities. I use which ever one has the shorter line, and if you don’t like it, you can wait until I’m done. I do usually use the women’s, but that’s mostly because they generally aren’t equal- men pee on the seat, and the floor, etc. I’ve noticed a lot of newer places have gender neutral bathrooms now, which is better for everyone, except of course the insecure and those who don’t think they can control themselves.

    You also won’t win any arguments by redefining the terms of the discourse as you see fit. Fundamentalism means, “strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles” according to, not “having no argument,” as you seem to think.

    People on the lunatic fringe of any religion, political party, etc. tend to make very bad spokespeople for their cause. I don’t know what you think you accomplished by telling the non believers on here what you think Islam means, but I’m willing to bet you didn’t win any converts.