Islam on Capitol Hill: A Missed Opportunity

The organizers of the “Islam on Capitol Hill” event last Friday came only about 47,000 people short of their goal of bringing 50,000 Muslims to Washington to pray in front of the Capitol building. Although the event received a great deal of publicity, it didn’t receive the backing of the leading American Muslim advocacy groups — the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Public Affairs Council – and apparently that was enough to keep it from drawing Muslims to Capitol Hill in the numbers the organizers would have liked.

Nonetheless, the event went on, peacefully, under skies that initially threatened rain but then turned brilliantly sunny. Still, it was a huge missed opportunity for American Muslims, and not just because the turnout was far smaller than expected.

Organizer Hassen Abdellah had explained before the event that it was designed “to show we are not terrorists, but that most of us Muslims here love America and abide by its laws.” And it took place against a backdrop of a sharp increase in violent jihad activity in the United States. In the week leading up to the Islam on Capitol Hill prayer meeting, two Muslims, including an imam, were arrested for their alleged roles in an elaborate plot involving numerous other Muslims in New York City and Denver, who were evidently planning a major jihad attack at a sports stadium.

Another Muslim, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, was arrested after placing an inert car bomb at a 60-story office tower in downtown Dallas. Yet another Muslim, an American convert who calls himself Talib Islam, was arrested for plotting to blow up the Paul Findley Federal Building in Springfield, Illinois.

All that in one week. If the Islam on Capitol Hill event was really supposed to show that Muslims were not terrorists, wouldn’t it have been a good opportunity to denounce those jihad plots and the Islamic doctrines of warfare and supremacism that inspired them in the first place? For these were not just plots to sow undifferentiated mayhem, but were specifically Islamic jihad plots developed by Muslims who believed that the violence they unleashed would advance the cause of Islam. Dallas plotter Smadi explained his intentions in fervently expressed Islamic theological terms: “I truly say it that my dream is to be among God’s soldiers, first for the support of Islam and my beloved Sheik Usama [bin Laden], may God give him long life….I am ready for the Jihadi life….Victory is coming, is coming to defeat the Romans [i.e., Christians] and for the destruction of the Jews. God is Most Great. We shall attack them in their very homes. Brother, by God, we shall attack them in a manner that hurts, an attack that shakes the world.” Likewise Talib Islam spoke to a man whom he did not know was an FBI informant about his desire to wage Islamic jihad and bring down the U.S. government.

But Hassen Abdellah, asked on the morning of the prayer meeting to denounce these plots, demurred, saying that the event was not meant for denunciations. Yet Brooklyn imam Abdul Malik, who preached the sermon at the gathering, found ample time to denounce the immorality of American popular culture and indulge in several oblique denunciations of Christianity. He emphatically recommended Islam as the cure for America’s ills – and this was a political prescription, not solely a religious one. I spoke to several Muslims at the event; all said they’d like to see Islamic law, Sharia, come to the United States – a sentiment rife with political implications that remain a matter of indifference on the part of officials sworn to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.

Islam on Capitol Hill was supposed to show that Muslims are not terrorists. Yet not a word was said at the event about the Muslims arrested for terrorist activity that same week, or any assurances given that the assembled Muslims were working to root out this problem from the Islamic community. What’s more, the Islamic terrorists’ stated goal is the imposition of Sharia, with its denial of free speech and legal equality, and that seemed to be just fine with most of those who prayed Jummah prayer on Capitol Hill on Friday.

It was hardly a comforting message to give to free Americans.