America's oldest mosque wants Donald Trump to pay it a visit

Iowa, where presidential candidates are competing fiercely for votes, is home to the country's oldest mosque and its leader wants Republican frontrunner Donald Trump to pay it a visit. Taha Tawil is concerned that Trump's views are creating a toxic environment for Muslims in the U.S.

The imam of historic Muslim community in Iowa says Trump acting like Rambo

Republican candidate Donald Trump held a rally in Iowa on Jan. 9, 2016. The imam at a historic mosque in Cedar Rapids wants Trump to visit and discuss his views, including his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters)

The oldest mosque in the U.S., which happens to be in Iowa — the state that kicks off the presidential primary season next month — wants Donald Trump to pay it a visit.

The leading Republican candidate for president has been spending a lot of time and advertising money in the state as the first caucuses in the country are scheduled there on Feb.1.

And as Trump's TV ads highlight his campaign promise to impose a temporary ban on Muslims entering the U.S., Imam Taha Tawil feels it's time the two met for a face-to-face discussion.

"It was very ugly," Tawil called the Trump ad in an interview with CBC News. "It feeds the stereotypes and the propaganda, and creates Islamophobia. This is not the way it should be."

Tawil leads the Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids, which is known as the first permanent building to serve as a mosque in the country. It was constructed in 1934. But Muslim roots run deep in Iowa, dating back to the late-1880s.

The Mother Mosque of America in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was built in 1934 and was the first permanent structure built to serve as a mosque in the U.S. (Mother Mosque of America)

Tawil, who was born in Jerusalem and came to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, wants Trump to visit so he can meet the country's oldest Muslim community, and hear how his campaign is affecting its members.

"We have been here over 100 years in Iowa and we are here to stay," said Tawil. "We've never felt so pressured, like now. He's making a toxic environment to us and to his fellow citizens."

'Like a Rambo mentality'

Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the country in the wake of the mass shooting at a county office in San Bernardino, Calif., in early December, carried out by a married couple who supported the terrorist group ISIS.

When it was first announced, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other Muslim leaders condemned Trump's idea as outrageous, reckless and un-American.

Trump has antagonized American Muslims throughout his campaign by supporting the idea of a database to track Muslims, calling for surveillance of mosques and saying some Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 terror attacks.

This past weekend a Muslim woman, Rose Hamid, was escorted by security out of a Trump rally in South Carolina when she stood up during his remarks in silent protest wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words "Salaam, I come in peace."

CAIR is demanding an apology from Trump over the incident, saying he needs to make it clear that American Muslims are welcome as participants in the nation's political process.

Like Tawil, CAIR is calling on Trump to meet with Muslims to "stem the anti-Muslim hysteria resulting from his rhetoric and that of other GOP presidential candidates."

Tawil, who is a registered Republican, said he hasn't felt any anti-Muslim sentiment in Cedar Rapids, but he feels there is one, more generally, in the country, and he wants Trump to address it.

"If he is running for president, he needs to reach out to people, all people. We are equal," he said.

He said Muslims want to work with Trump on national security issues, they just need to sit down and all talk together.

"This is like Rambo mentality," he said. "Mr. Donald Trump is way off balance on this issue. He needs to come back to his senses and speak with his fellow citizens and we are ready to help him out."

The Mother Mosque is sending a formal written invitation to Trump. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Tawil's request for a meeting.


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