Washington National Cathedral in the District of Colombia has long been known for presidential funerals and other worship services under the auspices of its owner, the Episcopal Church of the United States. On Friday, November 14, a Muslim prayer service will be held at the historic church. Organizers of the event say that they seek to make a statement by inviting Muslim prayer leaders come to the church to hold their midday worship in a Christian worship space. According to the Washington Post, Rizwan Jaka - who represents the co-sponsoring All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in nearby Sterling VA said “We want the world to see the Christian community is partnering with us and is supporting our religious freedom in the same way we are calling for religious freedom for all minorities in Muslim countries,” adding “Let this be a lesson to the world.”
The Muslim prayer known as 'jummah' will commence at 12:20 PM in the soaring Gothic cathedral. Only those specifically invited are welcome. Rev. Gina Campbell, who is the director of liturgy at the cathedral, and South Africa's ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool, worked on bringing the two faiths together for the event. In a prepared statement, Rasool, a Muslim, said “This is a dramatic moment in the world and in Muslim-Christian relations.” There will be approximately 100 persons in attendance; Muslims will bring their own rugs. A statement from the cathedral that the worship space limited iconography, which Islam abhores, making it "almost mosque-like"
“This needs to be a world in which all are free to believe and practice and in which we avoid bigotry, Islamaphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Christianity and to embrace our humanity and to embrace faith.” Rasool will deliver the sermon.
Of the discussions concerning the Muslim worship service at the cathedral, Campbell said that Rasool understands what the building represents in the United States and that it is aware of the power of the cathedral to "shape relationships, community, conversation, to do deep, important things.”
The Muslim prayer event is co-sponsored by the Episcopal Church of the USA, as well as ADAMS, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council, and Masjid Muhammad mosque in Northwest Washington. The worship service will be streamed live at the Cathedral’s Web site.
The Council on American Islamic Relations has been controversial. For example, it was named by Federal prosecutors in a list of unindicted co-conspirators and/or joint venturers in a case involving the Holy Land Foundation and possible funding by the Hamas terrorist organization. This prompted the FBI to cease cooperation with CAIR on criminal investigations. CAIR was never charged with any crime, and in 2010 a federal appeals court sealed the list after having ruled that the designation violated the group's rights and was the result of "simply an untested allegation of the Government, made in anticipation of a possible evidentiary dispute that never came to pass."
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