WASHINGTON — For the first time in American history, Muslims will offer prayers at the historic National Cathedral located in the heart of Washington, D.C., likely raising concerns from many across the country.
While the national cathedral has hosted interfaith gatherings in the past, the Islamic Jumaa prayers to be presented this Friday at the historic Episcopalian site will be the first of its kind. According to reports, the idea for the invitation originated during the planning stage for the memorial service for African apartheid leader Nelson Mandela as talks between the cathedral’s liturgical director, Gina Campbell, and South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool took place.
The cathedral states that the goal of the event is to facilitate greater acceptance between Christians and Muslims, calling the Islamic Jumaa prayers at the house of worship a “powerful symbolic gesture.”
“Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral shows more than hospitality,” representatives for the National Cathedral wrote in a press release about the matter. “It demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions.”
“This is a dramatic moment in the world and in Muslim-Christian relations,” Rasool added. “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.”
In addition to Campbell and Rasool, Masjid Muhammad of The Nation’s Mosque, representatives from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America and Muslim Public Affairs Council are all expected to be in attendance. The event is also facilitated so that Muslims will face Mecca during the Jumaa prayers.
Washington’s National Cathedral has traditionally been recognized as the cathedral of the presidents, being used for inaugural-based prayer services for the past 106 years. It has also hosted the funeral services for Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Dwight Eisenhower, and was dubbed the “National House of Prayer” by the U.S. Congress.
As previously reported, last year, over two thousand people joined Barack Obama and Joseph Biden for an interfaith service surrounding the president’s re-inauguration. The service included a variety of guests from a number of religions, who presented Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish prayers for Obama.
The National Cathedral has also raised concern in recent years over its acceptance of homosexual “marriage.” As previously reported, last year, the facility announced that it would be among the first Episcopal congregations to change its policies to allow same-sex “weddings” to be held at the site. The cathedral also pealed its bells last June in celebration of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Last October, Dean Gary Hall insinuated that it was a sin to oppose homosexuality during a tribute to the homosexual youth at the National Cathedral, and a commemoration of the death of Matthew Shepherd, whose slaying sparked the passage of the federal “hate crimes” bill signed into law by Barack Obama in 2009.
“We must now have the courage to take the final step and call homophobia and heterosexism what they are. They are sin,” Hall claimed. “Homophobia is a sin. Heterosexism is a sin. Shaming people for whom they love is a sin.”
Photo: Mina Elias