The first mosque in Toledo was located at 722 East Bancroft Street and was dedicate on April 4, 1954. File photo is dated May 28,1955.
Toledo’s first mosque was more than a house of worship. To Habib Khan, 76, it was a “big home,” where the community gathered for dinners, games, and the dabke, a Middle Eastern line dance performed at haflehs, or parties.
The mosque, founded in 1954, was at Bancroft and Cherry streets, close to what was then Little Syria, an ethnic Arab enclave in North Toledo’s Vistula neighborhood.
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In its early years, the mosque was home to about 50 families, mostly Arabs from Lebanon and Syria, said Hussein Shousher, 80. As the Muslim community grew and welcomed different ethnicities, the two-story brick structure could no longer house the congregation. It was time for a newer, grander mosque, something more like mosques back home.
In 1978, leaders at the Bancroft mosque purchased 48 acres, just off I-75 in Perrysburg Township. This would be the future site of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo.
The transition was not without its difficulties.
As the community was attempting to raise money from overseas donors for the planned expansion in Perrysburg Township, Mr. Shousher said, talk spread that there was drinking and dancing at the mosque — two activities that are forbidden in the Islamic community. While there was dabke in the mosque’s basement, Mr. Shousher said there was no drinking in the mosque.
To clear this up, Imam A.M. Khattab, the mosque’s religious leader at the time, said there would be no more dabke in the mosque.
Mr. Shousher and Mr. Khan, whose family is thought to be one of the first Indian-American Muslim families in Toledo, shared this history of the Muslim community over breakfast at mosque member Emmett Kadri’s home last year. The following recording is a snippet of that conversation, dealing specifically with the controversy over the dabke. The audio begins with Mr. Shousher and ends with Mr. Khan. Mr. Kadri is not on the audio clip.