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It has been a staple of Evangelical Christianity in America for decades -- the massive gathering of Christians on the Mall in Washington D.C. for prayer and political action. From Promise Keepers, to TheCall, to the annual March for Life on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Christians have made their voices known to heaven and to the politicians in our nation's capitol in prayerful and peaceful demonstrations.
Now a New Jersey mosque is leading a national Muslim prayer rally in Washington, D.C., that organizers expect will attract tens of thousands from across the country. Though Louis Farrakhan held the "Million Man March" in Washington, D.C., which was aimed at men of all faiths, this gathering is exclusively an Islamic event.
Leaders of Dar-ul-Islam in Elizabeth, N.J., expect 50,000 Muslims from around the world to gather for the September 25th rally being held on Capitol Hill. Hassen Abdellah, president of Dar-ul-Islam, said the event will not include political speeches, but instead will be centered only on prayer.
"There are a lot of people who are Muslims who feel that the image of Islam has been portrayed very derogatorily, Abdellah said. "We believe that it's very important that the other side of Islam, the real reason people become Muslim, is portrayed as opposed to what people believe in the politics of Islam."
Charisma News reports that mosque members secured a permit for the event in July and have been working since then to gain sponsors and spread word through e-mails, phone calls and a Web site, Islamoncapitolhill.com, that declares, "Our time has come."
Abdellah said participants will pray for salvation—for individuals, communities and nations—and "that people get along better, and move forward with more humanity toward each other."
"We're trying to illustrate the spiritual component," he said. " Because there's too much emphasis on other things in Islam, and that's the problem. Too much emphasis on the politics as opposed to the spirituality. You're not getting to heaven for your politics. The politics will get you in hell; spirituality will get you salvation."
Abdellah, who is African-American, said President Obama's words at his inauguration, describing the U.S. as a nation of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and nonbelievers, and his speech this summer in Egypt seeking to build bridges with the Muslim world led him and a New Jersey imam to begin discussing the idea.
"He's articulated a position that's consistent with the Constitution of the United States, that there would be no discrimination based on race, religion, national origin," he said. "That was inspirational. He used passages that are more Islamic-friendly than cause tension and intimidation."
The gathering will occur by the site where presidents have been inaugurated since 1981. In fact, it was President Obama’s words at his inauguration in January, and then his speech in Egypt in June, that led Abdellah and an area imam, Abdul Malik, to begin discussing the idea, Abdellah said.
“For the first time in my lifetime,” Abdellah said, “I heard someone of his stature speaking about Islam and Muslims not in an adversarial sense, but in the sense of being welcome and acknowledging we are integral citizens in the society — that we’re gainfully employed, we’re educated.”
“He said he had his hand open to the Islamic world,” he said. “The Islamic world wants to open their hand and shake it.”
The website set up for the event, islamoncapitolhill.com, features a logo with a red, white and blue hand shaking a light brown hand, with the words to the preamble of the Constitution and a page of Arabic text in the background.
Charisma is reporting that some Christians are also 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."
In a recent e-mail newsletter, Intercessors for America President Emeritus Gary Bergel said Muslims have been holding Jummah prayers on Fridays in the Capitol building for several years now. While he understands why Christians would be concerned that those prayers are being made more public he urges understanding. He suggested that Christians should respond to events such as this not "in a spirit of agitated civil religion" but with a heart of compassion for their Muslim neighbors.
"An appropriate response would be to go in our prayer closet and fall on our face—realizing our own need for mercy, grace, forgiveness and our own redemption—and see how the Lord would direct each one of us to take up this matter in prayer to pray compassionately for our Muslim neighbors."
"If we live the gospel and demonstrate the love of Jesus, then we can defend the truth," he added. "Then we'll get a better hearing, and we'll get a better response. We won't just trigger more angry reactions."
Learn more at CBN.com's Understanding Islam Special Feature
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