The Story of the Construction of the New Mosque in the Palestine Neighborhood

This article examines the recent transformation of the Palestine neighborhood, located in the central part of Tehran, through the construction of the Palestine Mosque. Looking at the history of the neighborhood, I will explain how, in the early decades of this century, the building of a new irrigation channel to address the main issue of water-shortage in Tehran, enabled the development of the city further to the north, and attracted to the area prosperous residents from around Tehran. The neighborhood has gone through many ups and downs during these years. However, the changes have been quite dramatic in the last two decades. This includes the out-migration of some of the old residents and the conversion of residential buildings into office and commercial spaces. Yet, many of the old residents, having a strong sense of belonging, chose to remain in the neighborhood. After the Islamic revolution of 1979, the central square of the neighborhood, Palestine square, became part of Tehran’s Friday praying zone centered at Tehran university, and attracting thousands of people to this religious- political ceremony. The construction of the mosque aimed to provide the area with a new religious space, and with a symbol strong enough to redefine the spirit of the area.
Unlike the holistic approach to history, this article approaches the neighborhood's history as a multilayered narrative, comprising various particular narratives and the different perspectives of the social actors, and reflecting individual interests as well as macro-structures such as politics, economy, and social tradition. I will compare different sets of residents' narratives and perspectives regarding the aims and functions of building the mosque. The explanations are documented through the use of maps, photographs, historical correspondences, biographies and other related local documents. I will argue that in building the mosque, according to various narratives, little attention has been paid to the history of the neighborhood, and this has led to an obvious disassociaiton between local residents and the mosque as a public institution.