Note: Due to car troubles and long drive time, this post has been made a day late. Please accept our apologies as we are trying to stay on schedule with our route.
During the Ethnic Cleansings in the 1990’s, the US government helped bring thousands of Bosnian families to America. Like most refugees, they were settled in quieter parts of America, areas that are less crowded and more affordable. And that’s how many Bosnian families ended up in Boise, Idaho. But unlike many of the other refugee communities that were brought to Boise, the Bosnians decided to stay in the city. Many of the Somalian, Burmese and Afghan refugees that were stationed to Boise fled to different parts of the country where there were more people from their ethnic backgrounds.
“It’s a lot like home here,” Merzeen, a construction project manager who came to Idaho 12 years ago from Bosnia, says, “the climate, the outdoors.” The Bosnians, like Merzeen, had no issue embracing Boise as home.
Soon enough, the Boise Bosnians were growing in numbers (approx. 2,000), but there still wasn’t a community space big enough to accommodate them. The small 1500 sq ft makeshift house they prayed the Friday prayers in wasn’t enough for their growing community and they needed a larger space.
It took 12 years for the Bosnian community to come together and build a mosque. The community bought out an abandoned church and built a mosque with their own hands. Everything from the wall plaster to the electric wiring was done by the community members.
On July 4th 2010, the Islamic Community of Bosniacs in Boise officially opened its doors. It was a joyous and emotional occasion with food, riveting speeches and, of course, fireworks. The completion of the mosque was a long and labor intensive road. Thankfully, Denis, the de facto historian of the community, has been taking photos of the center since the first community meeting at the abandoned church.
The following moments are taken from Denis’ extensive collection of photos that can be found in the Boise mosque, tucked away in the bookshelves binded neatly inside five white large photo albums.