Islam on Capitol Hill?

“Our Time Has Come,” proclaims the Islam on Capitol Hill website. The plan is for that time to come on September 25, when event organizers say they expect 50,000 Muslims to come to Washington to participate in Jummah prayer on Capitol Hill — Friday congregational prayer, with a sermon.

“The objective of this gathering,” says the Islam on Capitol Hill website, “is to invite the Muslim Communities and friends of Islam to express and illustrate the wonderful diversity of Islam.”

What could be wrong with that?

Newsweek reports that it is the brainchild of a New Jersey Muslim attorney, Hassen Abdellah, who points as his inspiration to Barack Obama’s words in his Inaugural Address: “To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Abdellah recalled: “For the first time in my lifetime, 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.”
Abdellah emphasized that pacific nature of the event: “Fundraising is going slow, but the bottom line is all we’re doing is praying, you don’t need that much money to pray.” No political demonstrations, or even signs, will be allowed: “We want this to be purely about Islam. 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.”

As an attorney, Abdellah has represented Mahmud Faruq Brent, a Muslim cabdriver in Baltimore who pled guilty in April 2007 to attending a jihad terrorist training camp in Pakistan. At the time of the guilty plea, the Washington Post reported that Abdellah said that “Brent does not intend to cooperate with authorities or testify against the other defendants.” Abdellah also represented Numan Maflahi, who in 2004 was sentenced to five years in prison for, according to the New York Times, “lying to investigators during an investigation of terrorism financing efforts that they said were centered in Brooklyn.”

Abdellah engaged in a bit of victimhood posturing, warning that Maflahi’s sentence would show whether “this country could be fair to Arab-Americans.”

Of course, everyone is entitled to legal representation, but Abdellah’s choice of clients is…interesting. So also is one of his choices to lead recitation of the Koran during the event. Sheikh Ahmed Dewidar is an Islamic Studies instructor at Manhattanville College and imam of midtown Manhattan’s Islamic Center. The Islam on Capitol Hill website proudly states that Dewidar “stood shoulder to shoulder with US President George W. Bush and UN Secretary General Kofi Anan [sic] at Ground Zero as Imam of the Islamic Center in Mid-Manhattan to speak on behalf of the Muslim community to condemn the September 11 attacks.”

Even more noteworthy, however, were statements he made on the Saudi-financed Arabic language Middle East Broadcasting Company (MBC) in June 2005. According to a transcript provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Dewidar recalled that “in 1995, I heard some sermons, saying that Muslims should march on the White House from some of the mosques.” He recounted that “one cleric said in his sermon: ‘We are going to the White House, so that Islam will be victorious, Allah willing, and the White House will become…the Muslim house.’”

Dewidar explained that this cleric meant that “through the domination of Islam and its ideas, the White House will change.” He said that this wouldn’t happen, however, “unless the Muslims abandon their slogans and become a role model.” He criticized Muslim spokesmen who engage in “patronizing, condescending rhetoric that ‘Islam is coming, and it will change the face of the earth,’ while at the same time he cannot even change the face of the Islamic capitals, which overflow with garbage.”
At first glance this seems like a sober call for responsibility, but note well that Dewidar did not take any issue with the idea that the White House would become the “Muslim House” through the “domination of Islam.” He issued no declaration of allegiance to Constitutional freedoms.  

Is the Islam on Capitol Hill day of prayer meant to be a declaration of Islamic supremacism — that Sharia law’s “time has come” in the U.S.? It could be the occasion for a ringing affirmation of adherence to Constitutional pluralism and non-establishment of religion. But it probably won’t be.