Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center
Boston, United States

The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center (ISBCC), a landmark building that now stands at 100 Malcolm X Boulevard, and is certainly one of the most notable features of the Roxbury skyline, was designed by the renowned Saudi architect Dr. Sami Angawi. It faced many delays, and is only the first part of the planned facility that will be larger, providing additional services to the Muslim community of the area. The rather plain concrete facade on Elmwood Street that contrasts with the rest of the building is intended to be removed for the planned expansion which will benefit the school.


The land at 100 Malcolm X Boulevard was set aside in 1970 as part of an urban renewal initiative of the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Earnest discussion of building a mosque on the site began in 1981. The Muslim Council of Boston, formed in 1988, responded to BRA's request for redevelopment proposals and “demonstrated overwhelming community support for the Project,” according to Muhammad Ali-Salaam, formerly of the BRA and a member of the ISBCC community who has been involved in project from the beginning. As a result of this enthusiastic response, they won tentative designation for the Project. In 1988, faced with fundraising challenges, they gave the Cambridge-based Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) control of the project.[1]. 

The transfer was not without its critics, but after a series of community meetings, and extensive periods of public comment, the ISB was designated the developer of the land in 2000. By that time, rising costs and fundraising challenges delayed groundbreaking until 2002, at which point a series of legal challenges and a smear campaign in the media further delayed construction. Lawsuits and allegations of various sorts leveled at the leadership of the ISBCC in courts and in the media, as well as fund raising issues brought on by the Islamic tradition that prohibits paying interest on borrowed money once again delayed construction. 


All these challenges were eventually dismissed or overcome, and work finally began in 2004, the same year that the ISBCC and individuals associated with it began to fight back in earnest through the media, the courts, as well as through alliances with sympathetic organizations from other faiths. In 2007 the Muslim American Society of Boston took on a formal leadership role. Thousands of people, Muslim and non-Muslim, turned out for the capping of the minaret, on June 9, 2007. [2] The Project received its Certificate of Occupancy in June, 2008. In 2009 the ISBCC held a two-day ceremony to celebrate the completion of the Center attended by local and national leaders, as well as Christian and Jewish faith leaders from the area.[3] In 2013 the City of Boston designated the square on the boulevard in front of the mosque "Muhammad Ali-Salaam Square" to recognize Ali-Salaam's service to the city.


The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center is a mosque, elementary school, community center, and exhibition space. It also serves as a funeral home with modern facilities for washing the dead in accordance with Islamic law. The current structure, with its exterior parking occupies most of the irregularly shaped block bounded by Malcom X Boulevard and Roxbury Street roughly to the north and south, and King Street and Elmwood to the East and West. The block also includes the King Street Play Area, one of two parks maintained by the ISBCC as stipulated by the agreement with the city at the time of the purchase the land for the mosque.

The Center was designed to simultaneously assimilate into and stand out from the architectural landscape in the immediate vicinity. The red brick of the facade is deliberately consistent with the Roxbury Community College campus, the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, the Police Station and much of the housing in the area. Were it not for the arcades at the entrance on Malcolm X Boulevard, it would hardly be remarkable at all from an eye-level view. But the arches do catch the eye and they also train the gaze upward to a dome and minaret that rise elegantly, high above anything else in the vicinity. 

On the basement level of the center is an underground garage, large men's restroom and ablution chamber, a finishing kitchen (for any final preparations of catered food brought in for banquets and religious holiday celebrations), and a morgue with facilities for the preparation of the deceased in a manner consistent with Muslim religious law. This last feature makes the ISBCC the first facility of its kind in New England.


The main entrance of the mosque on the first floor, is through the "Gate of Peace," a brick arcade approximately 70 feet high that extends approximately 25 feet toward Malcolm X Boulevard. To the left is a shop selling religious and cultural items, and gifts, and to the right are offices of the school. The vestibule feeds into a lower lobby, and a short set of stairs mount to the upper lobby, to left of which is the main prayer hall. It is open to the upper floors, but the space on each side is not. These two large function rooms each approximately 32 sq ft, can be closed off by movable partition walls, or left open to expand the prayer hall. It can also be expanded into a larger space to the east.

The floor of the mosque is carpeted, and carpeting is extended beyond the main prayer hall as necessary to accommodate large numbers of worshippers. The mihrab niche is set in the wall behind the dome. It extends outside the mosque in brick. The large dome above the main prayer hall is octagonal. The interior is largely ivory with contrasting molding in green and beige. Finer details of the interior décor of the mosque are unfinished.


Directly across from the Gate of Peace, a second set of large doors entering from the back parking lot of the mosque open onto the "Courtyard of Peace." This space, like the prayer hall, is open through to the ceiling. A space designated as a multipurpose room has been adapted into a cafe/cafeteria, taking advantage of a serving counter that was built in. Original plans indicate the offices of the school were to be up the small stairway to the right of the front entrance, but currently the offices of the Muslim American Society are located there.

Space designated for a library on the second floor of the school has largely been taken over as classroom space, as there is less need for a physical library in the age of digital resources. Only an elementary school was originally planned, but it already accommodates both middle and elementary school students. The women's ablution facilities and prayer space are on a mezzanine level to the north and approximately 5 feet higher than the library. The main prayer space overlooks the main prayer hall. Additional spaces to the south and west are multifunctional with movable walls. There is also a designated exercise room, library, and classroom space. A partial third floor is largely unoccupied space, used for roof, utility and other access. 

The ISBCC is accessible by mass transit, has on site parking for approximately 100 vehicles, and can accommodate up to 4000 worshipers. [4] The structure currently occupies approximately 70,000 sq. ft. with a substantial expansion for the school currently in the planning stages. Because it will be removed for the expansion, the wall facing King Street is not finished in brick like the rest of the structure, but with concrete slabs.  

--Michael A. Toler, AKDC@MIT, August 2014


[1] The Pluralism Project. "Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center-Timeline." (Accessed August 16, 2014) 

[2] In 1988 Hassan Fathy drew a plan for this mosque, but his design was not built, and according to Muhammad Ali-Salaam, no one involved in the ISBCC Project was aware the drawings existed. 

[3] Brian R Ballou, "Canopy's rise signals end of mosque's plight," The Boston Globe, 10 June 2007.

[4] "At mosque opening, tensions permeate interfaith gathering." Boston Globe, 28 June 2009. 

[4] MAS Boston. "About the ISBCC." Accessed 


"About the ISBCC." About the ISBCC. Accessed August 16, 2014.

Ballou, Brian R. "Canopy's Rise Signals End of Mosque's Plight." June 10, 2007. Accessed August 16, 2014.

Cox, Jonathan. ISBCC Timeline. Accessed August 16, 2014.

"ISBCC." Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Paulson, Michael. "At Mosque Opening, Tensions Permeate Interfaith Gathering." June 28, 2009. Accessed August 16, 2014.

"The Pluralism Project at Harvard University." Center Profile. 2014. Accessed August 16, 2014.

100 Malcolm X Boulevard , Boston, United States
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Associated Names
Associated Collections
2002-2008/1423-1429 AH construction, Phase One
Approx. 6503 sq. m. (70,00 sq. ft.); 47.5 sq. m. (156 ft.) minaret; 36.27 m (119 ft.) dome
Variant Names
Roxbury Mosque
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