June 28, 1957: A Special Day for Islam in America – President Eisenhower opens Mosque in Washington, D.C.

“I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion” — President Eisenhower, June 28, 1957, Islamic Center, Washington D.C.

In an on-line story dated February 3, 2016, TIME magazine informed its readers that President Barrack Obama would be visiting the Islamic Society Mosque in Baltimore, Maryland, thus setting a milestone for his presidency. The reporter, Sarah Begley, reminded readers that the President was far from being the first American President to do so.

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Islamic Center, Washington, D.C. Conceived in 1944, the site for the mosque was purchased in 1946, and the cornerstone was laid on January 11, 1949. The mosque was designed by Italian architect Mario Rossi and completed in 1954. Photo: Carol M. Highsmith Archive collection / US Library of Congress.

The honour, she said, belonged to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. He opened the Islamic Center of Washington in the city’s Embassy Row district on June 28, 1957. First lady Mamie Eisenhower accompanied him to the dedication ceremony.

In his speech, President Eisenhower emphasized the importance of religious freedom in the USA, and highlighted the “Muslim genius” that has cultivated some of history’s most important inventions, discoveries, art, literature and thought now considered indispensable to modern civilization.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Remarks at the Opening of the Islamic Center in Washington D.C. on June 28, 1957

34th US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. White House portrait painted by James Anthony Wills.

(see profile, below)

[For a photo of the President delivering the speech, please click Politicio — ed.]

Mr. Ambassador, Dr. Bisar, Governors of the Islamic Center, and distinguished guests:

It is a privilege to take part in this ceremony of dedication. Meeting with you now, in front of one of the newest and most beautiful buildings in Washington, it is fitting that we rededicate ourselves to the peaceful progress of all men under one God.

And I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion. Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience. This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are.

The countries which have sponsored and built this Islamic Center have for centuries contributed to the building of civilization. With their traditions of learning and rich culture, the countries of Islam have added much to the advancement of mankind. Inspired by a sense of brotherhood, common to our innermost beliefs, we can here together reaffirm our determination to secure the foundation of a just and lasting peace.

Our country has long enjoyed a strong bond of friendship with the Islamic nations and, like all healthy relationships, this relationship must be mutually beneficial.

Civilization owes to the Islamic world some of its most important tools and achievements. From fundamental discoveries in medicine to the highest planes of astronomy, the Muslim genius has added much to the culture of all peoples. That genius has been a wellspring of science, commerce and the arts, and has provided for all of us many lessons in courage and in hospitality.

This fruitful relationship between peoples, going far back into history, becomes more important each year. Today, thousands of Americans, both private individuals and governmental officials, live and work — and grow in understanding — among the peoples of Islam.

At the same time, in our country, many from the Muslim lands — students, businessmen and representatives of states — are enjoying the benefits of experience among the people of this country. From these many personal contacts, here and abroad, I firmly believe that there will be a broader understanding and a deeper respect for the worth of all men; and a stronger resolution to work together for the good of mankind.

As I stand beneath these graceful arches, surrounded on every side by friends from far and near, I am convinced that our common goals are both right and promising. Faithful to the demands of justice and of brotherhood, each working according to the lights of his own conscience, our world must advance along the paths of peace.

Thank you very much.

Date posted: April 28, 2020.

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Pakistan Prime Minister Huseyn Suhrawardy being received at the White House by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957. Photo: Thomas J. O’Halloran / US Library of Congress.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969) served as the thirty-fourth president of the United States, governing from 1953 to 1961, after a military career culminating in his role as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe during World War II. Eisenhower’s presidency was largely occupied by foreign affairs, most notably the Korean War, the expansion of U.S. involvement in the Middle East after the Suez Crisis, and the general deepening of the Cold War. Even domestically, many of Eisenhower’s achievements were shaped by national security, including the construction of the interstate highway system. Eisenhower joined the Presbyterian Church as an adult and played a role in the addition of “In God We Trust” on American currency. Eisenhower famously stated that “our government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is.”


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Noteworthy book: “This Day in Presidential History,” by Paul Brandus. For each of the 365 days of the year, Brandus offers fascinating facts, historical anecdotes, and pithy quotations from and about all the presidents of the United States, from George Washington to Donald Trump.

Photographer, Sarfraz Sadaruddin, Releases Two Unique 1957 Portraits of His Highness the Aga Khan Under a Creative Commons License — A First!


Editor’s note: Among the photos we recently published of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi (see link at bottom of this page), was a unique, previously unpublished portrait of the Aga Khan. We are pleased to inform readers that the photographer of that portrait, Sarfraz Sadaruddin of Vancouver, Canada, has approached us and generously provided us not only with permission to publish his photograph, but also a sister portrait taken at the same time (both of which are reproduced below). He has also provided special permission, under a Creative Commons License, for others to use these portraits, subject to the conditions and restrictions laid out below.

Ismaili readers of this website will be particularly happy to see these two unique portraits of their beloved 49th Imam as they prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Simerg takes this opportunity to offer congratulations to all Ismailis as well as the entire Muslim world on the most auspicious occasion of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadhan, and wishes everyone barakah (happiness) and success in all walks of life. We pray for peace and unity amongst Muslims everywhere to please Almighty God, and thus gain more from Allah’s continuous and endless wonderful blessings to mankind.



By Mohib Ebrahim

During His Highness the Aga Khan’s 1957 visit to East Africa — his first after becoming Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan hosted a private function at his residence for many dignitaries — including the late Tom Mboya — and Ismaili community leaders. Sarfraz Sadaruddin, then 19, was one of the photographers covering the event and, never one to be shy, requested the Aga Khan if he could take some portraits of him. The Aga Khan graciously agreed, asking Sarfraz to proceed to the rear garden where he could take the pictures he needed while the Aga Khan was engaged with his guests there and this was when and where these two portraits were taken.

Sarfraz Sadaruddin during Expo 1986.

Sarfraz Sadaruddin during Expo 1986.

Sarfraz Sadaruddin, son of the late Rai A.M. Sadaruddin (see Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Eloquent Persian Quatrain by 48th Ismaili Imam Graces a 1923 Invitation For Talk About Imamat), was born in Nairobi, Kenya where he developed a passion for photography in his mid-teens and apprenticed with Kodak Limited for five years before moving to Hamburg, Germany, in 1960 where, on scholarship, he attended Agfa’s training college. Later, he moved to London to continue his photography studies at Ealing Technical College and then worked as a professional, freelance photographer, in the U.K. and continent, for newspapers, advertising firms and Royalty. In 1980, he moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he now resides and continues covering events.


In Kenya, since the Aga Khan’s coronation in 1957 until he left in the 1960s, Sarfraz was a key, official photographer at the Aga Khan’s functions in Nairobi. He covered the 49th Ismaili Imam’s Nairobi Enthronement (Takhtnashini) Ceremony, the opening ceremony of the Platinum Jubilee Hospital, now the Aga Khan University Hospital, and the entire Kenya leg of the 1959 visit including opening ceremony of the Aga Khan High School. He was also invited to cover the Aga Khan’s visit to the Aga Khan Primary School and many other private events the Aga Khan attended or hosted.

In London, Sarfraz was invited to cover the Foundation Stone ceremony of the Ismaili Centre as well as the Aga Khan’s community visits and functions.

Sarfraz Sadaruddin taking pictures during His Highness the Aga Khan's Vancouver Silver Jubilee visit in 1983.

Sarfraz Sadaruddin taking pictures during His Highness the Aga Khan’s Vancouver Silver Jubilee visit in 1983.

In Vancouver, Sarfraz continued to cover the Ismaili Imam’s visits, including extensive coverage of the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, which took place in the presence of then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, then British Columbia Premier, Bill Bennett, and His Highness the Aga Khan.

Also in Vancouver, outside of the community, Sarfraz was an official press photographer for many visits of Royalty as well as the World Expo, 1986. Key Expo events he covered include the opening by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales and the late Princess Diana and twenty “National Days.” He was complimented by the then Lieutenant Governor of BC, The Hon. Robert G. Rogers, for his outstanding work.

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In order that the Jamat may enjoy and use these two portraits, Sarfraz is releasing them under under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND) — the first time, to my knowledge, photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam, have been so generously shared for the Jamat to enjoy without fear of copyright infringement. Please note the images are still copyright and not in the public domain, but the license does allow them to be re-used non-commercially, without modification and with credit as embedded in the images and set out as below, including the web-link:

His Highness the Aga Khan portrait, Kenya, 1957 by Sarfraz Sadaruddin, © 1957 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).

Sarfraz kindly requests that all those who have copied and republished his photograph from the original posting on Simerg and its sister photoblog Simergphotos, to please add the above credit and replace their images with the one published here.

Date posted: Saturday, July 26, 2014.

Copyright: Mohib Ebrahim. 2014.


About the Author: Mohib Ebrahim is Sarfraz’s nephew, grandson of the late Rai A.M. Sadaruddin and founder of the NanoWisdoms Archive (http://www.nanowisdoms.org), a unique website dedicated solely to the Ismaili Imamat’s speeches, interviews and writings launched in 2011 upon receiving special permission from Aiglemont to publish the Aga Khan’s speeches. With over 500 readings and thousands of quotes it is the most comprehensive, public collection of Imamat knowledge available today.

Some of Mohib’s other articles on this website:

1. His Highness the Aga Khan and Canada: A Profound Affinity – But Why Canada?
2. Topan, Paroo and Visram – The Three Kings Without Crowns


Link to photos taken at the Aga Khan Primary School:

My Late Mother, Jean Kirk, and Her Special Collection of Rare Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visits to the Aga Khan Primary School in Nairobi by Allison Wallace