By William Wan
It began as the idea of one man in a New Jersey mosque after hearing President Obama speak about the need to reach out to Muslims in America. Now that man, Hassen Abdellah, is trying to mobilize 50,000 fellow Muslims from across the country to gather in front of Capitol Hill at the end of this month and pray for the country.
Abdellah says he’s already obtained a permit from police to gather on Capitol Hill on Sept. 25. And he’s heard from thousands willing to make the trek. “Fundraising is going slow,” he admitted, “but the bottom line is all we’re doing is praying, you don’t need that much money to pray.”
The gathering is not supposed to be political, Abdellah said in an interview. No placards or signs allowed. No major famous imams or popular celebrities scheduled so far. No real agenda other than to pray together.
“We want this to be purely about Islam,” he said. “We want to change the perception of Islam to show we are not terrorists, but that most of us Muslims here love America and abide by its laws.”
The idea came to Abdellah after he heard this portion of Obama’s inauguration speech:
“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”
Reflecting that sentiment is the poster announcing the prayer gathering, which features a red, white and blue hand shaking a brown hand. The Constitution and Arabic text provide the background. Abdellah’s mosque Dar-ul-Islam in Elizabeth, N.J. is helping to organize. Another interview and longer story from the New Jersey Star Ledger about the efforts here.