Muslim Prayer Event in D.C. Not Well Thought Out - updated 9/25

Muslim Prayer Event in D.C. Not Well Thought Out

by Sheila Musaji

(updates at bottom of article)

The Washington Times Religion Editor posted an article entitled: “Muslim prayers to surround U.S. Capitol”Surround?

The article opens:  “On Sept. 25, Dar ul Islam, a mosque in Elizabeth, N.J., is slating a massive Friday “jummah” prayer event at the west front of the U.S. Capitol; on the very site that President Obama gave his inauguration speech not so long ago. This is not a joke.”  This is not a joke?

The rest of the article reads as sarcasm, closing with:  “Well, if you can have giant menorahs on the White House lawn each December, you can have Muslims praying about one-quarter mile to the north. So if Islamic muezzins will chant out the “adhan,” the call to worship, to folks kneeling on prayer rugs on the west front lawn, does that make the Capitol dome a minaret?”

The comments on this article and others are primarily hateful - mistranslations of Qur’anic verses, somehow connecting this private effort with Obama, bringing up old lies about Congressman Keith Ellison and President Obama, spewing nonsense about the anti-Christ.

I had not heard about this event previously and immediately looked up the site of the organizers and googled all articles that discussed the event.

According to the website of the organizers of this prayer event ( http://islamoncapitolhill.com/Home_Page.html ):

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH….  The objective of this gathering is to invite the Muslim Communities and friends of Islam to express and illustrate the wonderful diversity of Islam. We intend to manifest Islam’s majestic spiritual principals (sic) as revealed by Allah to our beloved prophet Muhammad (PEACE BE UPON HIM) of Arabia. Likewise; we intend to inspire a new generation of Muslim to work for the greater good of all people. We shall serve all people, regardless of race, religion or national origin.

ON THIS DAY…. 
The Athan will be chanted on Capitol Hill, echoing off of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and other great edifices that surround Capitol Hill
Thousands of Muslims from all races, creeds, colors and ethnicities will gather for the sole purpose of prayer
Bonds of friendship will be formed between those in attendance, both Muslims and Non-Muslims
Muslim youth will experience tours of the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court.
The peace, beauty and solidarity of Islam will shine through America’s capitol.
A DAY OF ISLAMIC UNITY…  Jummah prayer, Capitol Hill, September 25, 2009

Another paper, the Star Ledger reported on this upcoming event and said: “The event will not include political speeches or placards, just prayer, said Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam and a main organizer of the event, which is scheduled for Sept. 25.  “Most of the time, when Muslims go to Washington, D.C., they go there to protest some type of event,” Abdellah said. “This is not a protest. Never has the Islamic community prayed on Capitol Hill for the soul of America. We’re Americans. We need to change the face of Islam so people don’t feel every Muslim believes America is ‘the great Satan,’ because we love America.”

Michael Kessler of The Washington Post on Faith column reported that:  “This sounds like a wonderful idea in our scarred and fraught world—religious people coming to the nation’s capital in a spirit of unity, praying for their well-being and for that of the country and the world. What’s not to support about this?  Well, when Charisma magazine reported about the plans, not everyone claimed excitement for a large group of Muslims appearing together in such a prominent place: “Some Christians also are mobilizing to pray on that day. An e-mail circulating virally calls for Christians to oppose what they see as Islam’s growing influence on the U.S. through prayer. ‘If ever we needed to be crying out for mercy for America, it is now,’ the e-mail reads. ‘We must stand strong and speak Truth wherever we are and at every given opportunity. ... May there be multitudes come in to the kingdom of God while there is yet time.’”

Another article on Charisma quotes a Christian Arab pastor as saying:  “Because of Christians’ silence, Muslims have become bold, Safa said, describing a large-scale Muslim prayer gathering on Capitol Hill later this month as a “slap in the face of Christianity.”  “It is a mockery of the Christian faith,” Safa said. “It’s a mockery of all of it. In a sense, I’m happy for it because the church needs to wake up before it’s too late.”  “A Mockery”, “A slap in the face”?

Other negative takes on this event:  Islam takes the D.C. Mall,  Muslims will descend on the capitol, The 9/12 Project is outraged, this is disgusting and treasonous, there is a site, in fact more than one where people can post how they feel about this event with incredibly negative comments, there is even a blog going where people are trying to get people to come and protest and disrupt the prayer by bringing a donkey, dogs, pigs, and ringing bells, there is also a call for people to write their congressional and senate representatives and demand that this event be stopped, and there is an organized group planning a protest called Stop the Islamization of America

Why would any sane person protest people praying for their country? 

I don’t know anything about the organizers of this event, but according to the information they have released, it seems as if they have applied for a permit for a prayer event which they are privately organizing and which is open to people of all faiths.  Anyone can apply for such a permit for a gathering.  The gathering is not sponsored by the government.  As long as the organizers maintain order and comply with all of the requirements of their permit, why would anyone object?  Other religious gatherings have been held on the Mall, for example the Christian Promise Keepers gathering back in 1997 and the Christian Call to Prayer gathering in 2008 in which Mike Huckabee participated.

I believe that this gathering was not a well thought out program.  The website offers little information.  The Program section only lists the two Imam’s who will be leading the prayers.  The timing is unfortunate and too close to September 11th.  The use of the “our time has come” terminology could be easily misunderstood.  The title “day of Islamic unity” as opposed to something like “Muslim prayer for America” might also be misunderstood.  The President has a lot on his plate and the right continues to attack him for any sign that he is showing what they consider undue respect for Muslims, as the recent blow ups over the regular White House Iftar, the recent “Islam is of the Devil” incident, and this years re-release of the Eid Stamp would show anyone who is paying attention.  This puts the President in an unfortunate position.  If he acknowledges the event or doesn’t acknowledge the event - either way he can’t win.  There has been a rise in anti-Muslim incidents and rhetoric recently.  It simply isn’t the right time or the right place for such an event.  That being said, the organizers have every right to hold such an event, and it is very positive that they say that there will be no placards or political speeches.  I hope that none of the disruptive elements in our own Muslim community (like those who disrupted the New York Muslim Day Parade) show up, or if they do that the organizers are prepared to isolate them so that their inappropriate behavior does not reflect on all Muslims.  I hope that these other non-Muslim disruptive elements show up, or if they do that the organizers are prepared to handle them with kid gloves.  I for one hope that they are able to maintain order, follow what they have said they will do, and make it clear that they are praying for the safety, security, and well-being of all Americans.

That being said, the event is now planned and will take place, and there are folks who are not happy about it.  The Islamophobic comments that have been left on articles about this event cannot be justified.  They are simply manifestations of hate towards Islam and Muslims.  It is possible that even an interfaith prayer might have provoked some sort of response if it included Muslim participants, but certainly this Muslim day of prayer has stirred up a hornets nest. 

Here are some of the comments:

“Gee, I wonder if Obama will be there to greet his brothers, and show his true colours to the Americian people? Good place for a bomb if any time. Sorry, but if you don’t get them, they’ll get us.Let’s face it this is what they are aiming for.”

“I think this would be a prestine time for a couple of B-52’s to carpet bomb the whole area with “willy-peter”(white phoshous) and then drop 1500-lb.anti-personeel bomblets and then wait 5-min.and then send in naplam to make sure no stragglers get away and then have a little prayer thanking the pilot’s and crew’s and then set down for a nice BBQ/some cold beer’s and act like nothing een happened//Oh I forgot to include the “Obam-ster and Michelle and that worthless ass water -dog too.This would be a great day for all of us.. Regards Jim Cravey-Semper Fidelis and all the “Muslims can kiss my Rosey-red Marine Ass.”

“Son of a B**CH! Those lousy ragheaded imbeciles attack our country on 9/11 and that screech of theirs is heard all over that pit DC in the same month as the anniversary of the attacks?????????? WHAT NERVE! Deport em all starting with the one who illegally sits in the oval office!”

“Can we make sure that all the church bells, all the taxi-cab horns, all the bus horns, all the fire truck sirens, and all the police car sirens sound together to drown out the call?”

“How about some farmers donate a few truckloads of pigs to let loose to run through the capitol .. I am so mad I could spit nails… seriously WTF?!?!  ... WTF?????!!!!!???  The govt just SHIT ALL OVER EVERYONE who died on 9/11 !!! EVERYONE .... and EVERY family who lost a loved one… If THIS isn’t the spark that IGNITES some shit , then I don’t know what is…”

“I think our president is showing favoritism for his beliefs and allowing our capital to be turned into a worship place that has no business there! But big head Obama(the Messiah) wouldn’t love to be worshiped in public as their Allah! The Capital is not a CHURCH or place of worship or for giving heed to their king Hussein!”

” It’s a Discrace to AMERICANS & OUR GOD which is Not the Same GOD they are praying to!The Muslims are taking over so many countries all over the world by Imagration and then having 8-10 kids for that goverment to help support so they can come in and destroy the country from within!I Personaly think they should be sent back to their own country and Our borders Closed to all that Are Socialist,Communist,Fascist & Radical religious groups like them !America is Not Like any other Country in the World but is being over run with all these Just Like our President !Hell he is bringing in More so they can One day have their God be the main religion in America !They have always Been Against America and OUR GOD So why are they here?Kick all of them Out and Give AMERICA Back to OUR GOD & CHRISTIANS !Stop them NOW while their are only a million or so here,They multiply faster than rabbits !LOLLook at the Whole worlds Population and how they are taking over them!This is going to end up in a Religious War in the future with Christians being Killed for Not changing their Beliefs and taking on the Koren(their Bible) OUR GOD WHICH IS THE FATHER SON & WHOLLY SPIRIT HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PART OF OUR BELIEF & TO WHOM WE PRAY !Will YOU deny OUR GOD?Will YOU become one of their followers?”
 
“They can have a National Day of Prayer at the US Capital as long as they pray to the Christian God this country was founded under.”

“I have mixed feelings about this. In America we are free to believe what we want, and certainly to pray whenever we want, but this statement disturbs me:  “The Athan will be chanted on Capitol Hill, echoing off of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and other great edifices that surround Capitol Hill.”  As a Christian, in a country founded by the TRUE God, it makes me sick to think of the Muslim call to prayer echoing in that place.”

“satan will be well pleased”

“Either way, I bet the Muslim-Islamic-Fascists get MORE positive television coverage than the Washington DC 9-12 Anti-Big Government protests did last night.”

“Are we as a nation seriously gonna allow this ??  I believe the line indeed HAS BEEN DRAWN….”

“Islam is a disease and muslims are the victims of that disease. Our politicans know that but they are not able to say it as it will start a world war.”

“Muslims are trying to show the world how stupid these American are and how scared they are of Islam for Islam is here in America not to compete with other religions but to dominate other religions and Islamic Sharia to be the highest law across the land, so why not start right at the steps of Congress.”

“We should gather up 100,000 of patriotic Americans to block these people from Capitol Hill.  We will not turn America over to Islam.”

I think that all Americans need to pray for a return to civil discourse.  WE the people are tearing apart the fabric of our society with senseless prejudice and rage against the other.  Together we are strong.

According to an article by Joshua Rhett Miller:

“ISNA officials say the prayer gathering is misguided.

“We are not sure this is the best way to achieve the objective,” Louay Safi, ISNA’s director of communications, told FOXNews.com. “Our approach is really to encourage the community to become more active in society and the government by participating in interfaith and charitable activities. We fear that the gathering will not be understood by some Americans.”

While ISNA will not participate in Friday’s event, Safi said he respects the attendees’ right to express themselves.

“We share the objective that Islam is not about politics but about being a good citizen and human being,” he said. “But my concern is that the focus will be on political mobilization, and I’m not sure whether the objective will be articulated well.”

Although “all shades of opinion and understandings” will likely be reflected at the gathering, Safi said he is not worried about the potential of extremist Muslims to join the prayer.

“Organizers have spread the word,” he said. “But this may not really bring more understanding of Islam to the public.”

Another article noted that“Even some local Washington-area Muslim groups have decided to not join the controversial event. The All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest mosques in the D.C-area, told the Post that the congregation was busy with Ramadan and other activities to be involved in the prayer rally.  Similarly, the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association said it’s busy with its own midday prayer service and could not take part in the event.”

UPDATES 9/25

Aziz Poonawalla of City of Brass has posted photos from the “Islam on Capitol Hill” jummah prayer and he will be posting updates from participants at the event. 

The Talk Islam blog has lots of people sending in information on the event at here

At 1:10p.m. the Washington Post published an article that noted: “Two groups of protesters gathered across the traffic circle from the gathering, waving banners and flags and passing out flyers with crosses and pro-Christian messages. One group, which stood next to a large wooden cross and two giant wooden tablets depicting the 10 commandments, was led by the Rev. Flip Benham of Concord. N.H.    “I would suggest we convert to Christ,” Benham shouted over a megaphone that was barely audible from the Muslim gathering. Islam “forces its dogma down your throat.”    Benham said he heard about the event last week and brought about a dozen supporters from around the country to protest it. He called Islam a “false religion.”    “Unfortunately, our president has opened up the door to this,” he said, gesturing toward people streaming toward the gathering. He “has prostrated Christianity to the level of other religions. That’s just stunning to me.”

In another article in the Washington Post it is noted that:  “But this week, some conservative Christians have called the event a threat to Christian values. In a statement, the Rev. Canon Julian Dobbs, leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America’s Church and Islam Project, warned that the service is “part of a well-defined strategy to Islamize American society and replace the Bible with the Koran, the cross with the Islamic crescent and the church bells with the Athan [the Muslim call to prayer].”

Christian evangelist Lou Engle said the Friday event “is much more than a nice little Muslim gathering. It’s an invocation of spiritual powers of an ideology” that “doesn’t have the same set of values that our nation has had.” 



Attendance estimates are not available yet, but various sources are reporting everything from 1,000 to 10,000 - certainly less than the 50,000 expected, but a good turnout.

According to a Beliefnet article - “...the only protests came from a few dozen vocal Christian demonstrators with bullhorns shouting from the sidelines”.  The article estimated the crowd at about 3,500.  “I love this flag,” said Azizah Abdullah of Rustburg, Va., who wore a stars-and-stripes hijab around her head. “This is my flag, too.”


Shame on the National Day of Prayer Task Force

In response to the Muslim Day of Prayer on Capitol Hill, officials from the Family Research Council and the National Day of Prayer Task Force hosted a national call-in prayer-a-thon on the night before in which one woman prayed, “We take together (God’s) sword and break the sword of Islam over this nation, and we loose forth the blood-drenched sword of Jesus Christ.”  Also during this conference call: “Shirley Dobson, who heads the National Day of Prayer Task Force, said she and other Christians “are so troubled at what we see going on in our nation—we’re watching the foundations crumble.”

According to Dakota Voice“Christian evangelist Lou Engle of TheCall has partnered with Shirley Dobson, chair of the National Day of Prayer Task Force and wife of Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, to issue an urgent nationwide call for Christians to pray and fast on Sept. 25 – the day when up to 50,000 Muslims plan to pray in front of the Capitol building.”  This event was promoted on The Call site.  Windows International issued a prayer alert which included the statement that “It is our responsibility to pray the Lord protects America from the subtle tactics satan is using to release demonic prayers in a nation founded on Christian principles.”

Christian protestors who showed up at the Muslim Prayer included “Proselytizing Christians in red T-shirts with the slogan, “Jesus is the standard,” targeted Muslims as they walked on the lawn. A few with bullhorns denounced Islamic beliefs. And at the nearby Sam Rayburn House Office building, a group called Stop Islamization Of America held a panel discussion criticizing the event.  “They say it’s a prayer event, but it’s a political action,” said Daniel L. Adams, a leader of the SIOA group. “Folks have their own places to worship. They’re called mosques, synagogues or churches. But when you come to the Capitol of the United States, it becomes political, because it’s a demonstration.”

Amazing!  Basically the same folks who objected to Obama not holding official Christian National Day of Prayer services in the White House are now saying that any prayer in a public place, outside of places of worship is “political” and a “demonstration”.


SEE ALSO:

Fact check provides excellent background on this event and responses to false claims http://factcheck.org/2009/09/muslim-prayer-day-sept-25/
Islam on Capitol Hill?, Aziz Poonawalla http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2009/09/islam-on-capitol-hill.html
Muslim v Christian Spiritual Battle in DC, Ed Brayton http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/09/muslim_v_christian_spiritual_b.php
New group to fight ‘Islamization’ at DC Muslim Prayer Rally http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/133436
Shariah experts to proclaim ‘Our Day has Come’ http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=109847

50,000 Muslims to Pray on Capitol Hill: Guess Who’s Not Happy?, David Gibson http://www.politicsdaily.com/2009/09/24/50-000-muslims-to-pray-on-capitol-hill-guess-whos-not-happy/
Capitol Hill Prayer, Jeff Diamant http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/nj_mosque_organizes_captiol_hi.html
Christian Fundamentalists Show Islamophobia and Intolerance for Religious Freedom in Opposition to Muslim Day of Prayer http://blog.buzzflash.com/analysis/912
Christian Prayer Teleconference Scheduled on Eve of Muslim Capitol Event http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000011048.cfm
Elizabeth mosque get support from Christian group for Washington prayer event, Jeff Diamant http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/elizabeth_mosque_get_support_f.html 
Muslim Day of Prayer on Capitol Hill, Dilshad Ali http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1252188243993&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout 
Muslim prayer event shows ‘greatness of America’ http://www.onenewsnow.com/Culture/Default.aspx?id=695432
Open Letter Asks Organizers of Sept. 25 ‘Islam On Capitol Hill’ to Denounce Specific Acts of Terrorism http://www.earnedmedia.org/visa0924.htm
‘Our Time has Come’ Or Has It?, Ken Blackwell http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/09/our_time_has_come_or_has_it.html 
President Obama Brings National Day of Prayer Back in Line With Constitution - updated 9/25/09 http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/national_day_of_prayer/0017574
Protests Surround Muslim Prayer Service at U.S. Capitol http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0909/662769.html
Washington Post video of highlights from the event http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/video/2009/09/25/VI2009092503141.html?sid=ST2009092502033
Will Obama endorse an anti-Semitic, anti-American Islamic day of prayer?, Bryan Fischer http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/fischer/090924

Right Wing Watch has an excellent series of posts:
-  The Right Finds a Prayer Rally It, For Once, Doesn’t Like http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/right-finds-prayer-rally-it-once-doesnt
-  Religious Right Mobilizes to Counter Muslim Prayer Rally’s “Dark Spiritual Intent” http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/religious-right-mobilizes-counter-muslim-prayer-rallys-dark-spiritual-intent 
-  Highlights From the Religious Right’s Anti-Islam Counter Offensive   http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/highlights-religious-rights-anti-islam-counter-offensive 
-  Muslim Prayer Rally Sets Off a Full-Blown Right Wing Crusade http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/muslim-prayer-rally-sets-full-blown-crusade 
-  Religious Right Launches Holy War To Combat Muslim Prayer Rally http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/religious-right-launches-holy-war-combat-muslim-prayer-rally 
-  NDPTF Tries to Tone Down Its Rhetoric http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ndptf-tones-down-its-rhetoric


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