A Muslim prayer gathering on Capitol Hill on Friday was attended by maybe a tenth of the 50,000 people organizers were expecting. The event's PR was even less successful than its attendance, with conservative media outlets claiming that the event's two main organizers had a history of defending terrorism, making anti-Semitic comments, and expressing anti-American views.
Specifically, Hassen Abdellah, one of the main organizers, was known as the "most aggressively combative" lawyer on behalf of Muslim terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, and another convicted of aiding a Pakistani terrorist group. Another, Sheik Ahmed Dewidar has made repeated anti-Semitic comments, and suggested that the U.S. government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
Most of the event's attendees were blissfully unaware of this unsavory backdrop, and the most predominant activity taking place was not politicking, but praying.
"It's the first time we've done this," said Mike Sherif, 23. "It's a pretty good thing."
Hela Kotob, a graduate student at Georgetown University, said the prayer day was "really inspiring."
"It's just great to come together in front of the Capitol Building," she said.
Not all left the politics aside, however.
"Obama's ancestry gives the green light for this crowd to come out of the closet," said Sabina Dzafic, of New Jersey.
"Just his ancestry — not him," she added.
Many were irked by the loud Christian protesters who stood at the perimeter of the prayer event. These individuals held large signs that read "Study and Obey the Bible," and "Know The God Of The Bible." The used loud bull horns to preach, and distract the worshippers from their prayers.
"Give [the Muslim attendees] a chance to worship God," said Rosa Hector, gesturing towards the Christian protesters. Hector, 44, was a Christian who had come to the event in for her husband, who was Muslim. She said she had come to the event because her husband shows similar support for her Christian faith.
"[The Muslim attendees] believe in Jesus as a living person, just like we do," said Hector, who said the Christain protesters "angered" her.
Capitol police were out in full force for the entirety of the event from 7am to 9pm, though the main part of the event was from 1-2pm. During that hour, lectors were calling prayers from a stage near the West lawn of the Capitol.
"We bear witness that nothing should be worshipped except Allah," said one of the organizers, "We didn't come today to criticize the nation."