A group called Islam on Capitol Hill has organized a pray-in for the West Front of the Capitol grounds today between 1 and 2 PM. Organizers expect a turnout of 50,000 Muslims to turn out for a prayer for the soul of America.
After the Value Voters summit last week, this should be an improvement.
The event really hasn’t drawn a big reaction from the conservative blogsphere yet, but it probably will draw lots as it is reported, and if the planned numbers turn out.
“There is no turning back,” Hassen Abdellah, president of the Dar-ul-Islam mosque in New Jersey and a main organizer of the event, told me on Wednesday.
Abdellah had just met with Capitol Hill police regarding security procedures and with sound technicians who will help broadcast the prayers. The organizers have a permit to gather at the West Front of the Capitol from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. but the main event will run from 1-2 p.m., the time of the principle Friday prayer service for Muslims.
“When Barack Obama ran for president everyone said that it wasn’t a good time. So what’s the difference?” Abdellah said. (“And no, President Obama is not coming,” he added pointedly. “And he is not a Muslim.”)
Abdellah argued that Muslims would be gathering to pray, not to protest — and that the audience is also beyond the U.S. borders. “We will be there to promote America to the world, to show the world that we (American Muslims) are not oppressed…We think this is a free country and we want to show that.”
Ibrahim Hooper, chief spokesman for the Council on Islamic-American Relations, or CAIR, a leading Muslim advocacy group, said he sees the Friday event as an extension of other Islamic celebrations that have been going on in Washington and elsewhere for years.
“What is significant about this event is that it is being seized upon by a cottage industry of Internet hatemongers who want to disenfranchise the American Muslim community,” said Hooper, who cannot attend the event because he will be traveling. “People shouldn’t stop doing things based on the hatred and bigotry of others. The civil rights movement did not stop moving forward just because racists didn’t like it.”