July 26, 2019
The East Village has always been a haven for the counterculture, home to the Beat writers in the 1950s, bohemians in the 60s, and punk rockers in the 70s. The neighborhood has changed since then, and glass-walled condos have replaced tenements. But one thing that has remained the same since the 70s is a mosque — the red brick Madina Masjid Islamic Council of America at the corner of 11th Street and 1st Avenue, founded by Bangladeshi Americans in 1976.
Today, Madina isn’t much of a community mosque; it’s small and doesn’t have a women’s section. But it’s convenient, and is a pitstop for Muslim workers, cab drivers, and delivery men to drop in and pray during their breaks. As the mosque has withstood gentrification and seen the demographics of its worshipers evolve, it has also remained set in its ways.
The East Village is one of the first neighborhoods my father got to know after immigrating to the U.S. from Bangladesh in the mid-80s. He worked as a salad man at a Lebanese restaurant between 1st and Avenue A in the East Village, near 4th Street, and remembers the growing presence of the South Asian community in the area. He’d shop at Bengali grocery stores and eat at Indian restaurants. He’d also visit the Madina mosque. He loved how hip the East Village was, the energy of its nightlife, and how nobody cared where you were from. “People just minded their own business. There was peace,” he said.