A New Jersey mosque is planning a national day of prayer on Sept. 25 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that expects to draw as many as 50,000 Muslims from across the United States.
This appears to be the first such event held by Muslims on such a large scale in the U.S. It represents a huge step forward for Muslims who for the most part prefer to stay out of the spotlight following 9/11.
Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam in Elizabeth, N.J., told the Star-Ledger newspaper that, "Most of the time, when Muslims go to Washington, D.C., they go there to protest some type of event ... 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."
The event will be held from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., but the main prayer will
occur at 1 p.m.
It’s a wonderful thing to see Muslims wear their patriotism on their
sleeve and demonstrate the deep love for their country. Abdellah hopes
that people of other faiths will join Muslims as well.
But, alas, the event also is turning into a religious war spurred by
fringe groups who see an opportunity to stage confrontational
anti-Islamic protests. One pastor is urging his congregation to fast
from midnight on Sept. 25 to 7 p.m., not for spiritual meditation or
to bring his people closer to God but to wrestle the “soul of the
nation” away from Muslims. He’s mistaken. Muslims don’t claim
ownership of America’s soul and he shouldn’t either.
The argument that has originated on anti-Muslim websites and appears
to be spreading among conservative religious groups is that some sort
of cultural or stealth jihad is being played out in the West while
non-Muslims go about their business blissfully ignorant of the
dangers. Meanwhile, mainstream media conspires to keep it all
For those who may not care to read the blathering of such websites,
stealth jihad supposedly when Muslims seek prayer breaks at work or
Muslim women request private time to swim at public pools. Even
wearing in public the so-called burqini, modest swimwear for women, is
somehow Islamifying the local community. Who would have thought that a
loose-fitting single-piece swimsuit would become a political hot
potato that required government intervention, as we have discovered to
be the case in France and Italy?
Now, the image of 50,000 Muslims -- most of who are American citizens
– praying in public has raised the hackles of some people who see
prayer as not worshipping God but as a threat to the soul of America.
The whole thought seems, well, so un-Christian and un-democratic.
This past year or so a disturbing trend has emerged as small groups of
people have staged anti-Muslim protests. On the eighth anniversary of
9/11 a small church group held an anti-Islamic demonstration at a
Gainesville, Fla., mall to memorialize those who lost their lives on
that day and those serving in the U.S. military.
About 30 protesters waved confrontational signs and shouted
anti-Muslim rants. In London a nastier and more violent confrontation
occurred between the English Defence League and Muslim youths at a
Harrow mosque under construction.
If taken as isolated events, the rallies don’t amount to much. But
it’s curious that for the first time we are seeing organized
anti-Islam protests. I can’t help but think we are witnessing early
signs of future, better organized rallies targeting the Muslim
Certainly Muslims have staged anti-Western rallies and often these
demonstrations are violent. But these protests are not so much as
anti-Christian but sparked by specific events, such as the publication
of images of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. The incidents at
Harrow and Gainesville are a different animal all together. The
protesters’ target is faith, as in my faith threatens your faith.
The implication is that we pray to a different God because we call Him
Allah. And that’s the irony. We all share the same God. By denying,
interfering or ridiculing anyone’s right to worship demonstrates a
complete lack of respect to the deity we all pray to.