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August 18th, 2010
06:56 PM ET

Muslim prayers welcome at Pentagon chapel

Tom Cohen filed this report from Washington:

Less than 100 feet from where a hijacked airplane slammed into the Pentagon, Muslim military personnel bring prayer rugs on weekday afternoons for group worship.

On Fridays, a local imam conducts a service in the Pentagon Memorial Chapel built after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks by al Qaeda that killed 184 people at the U.S. military headquarters.

The chapel, with stained-glass windows, burgundy carpeting and a wooden alter, provides a place of prayer and religious observation for anyone regardless of faith or culture.

Its welcoming calm and nondenominational culture are in stark contrast to the emotional debate over plans to build an Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from ground zero in New York City, where planes flown by al Qaeda hijackers destroyed the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,700 people.

To chaplains who work in Army chapels around the world, the tolerance and openness represent the support and camaraderie of military culture.

"What happens here is normal," said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Carleton W. Birch, spokesman for the Army Chief of Chaplains.

The Pentagon chapel opened in November 2002 as part of the reconstruction of the complex from damage caused by the 9/11 attack.

Behind the altar, a large stained-glass display depicts the Pentagon, an eagle and the American flag, with a double row of 184 ruby-red glass pieces representing the victims killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.

"United in memory, September 11, 2001," it reads.

The chapel contains 80 seats and has regularly scheduled religious services on weekdays, including Catholic confession and Mass, a Jewish service and Torah study, a Hindu service, a Mormon service and services for other Christian denominations, along with the Muslim prayer service.

On average, 300 to 400 people visit the chapel each week, either to take part in group services or on their own. Army officials interviewed Wednesday said they were unaware of anyone ever protesting against Muslims using the chapel.

"I've never had a question about it" in four-plus years at the Pentagon, Army spokesman George Wright said.

The Army culture of religious freedom dates back to the Revolutionary War, Wright said, describing it as "a big tent."

"We're very tolerant here of one another and our faith," he said. "We don't keep track of who comes in."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Islam • Military • Muslim

soundoff (215 Responses)
  1. Brian

    We had cowboys and Indians
    Just wait until we have cowboys and muslims

    August 22, 2010 at 3:42 am |
  2. NM

    please check out http://www.islamicsolutions.com/faiths-of-the-world-unite-dr-pasha-issues-call-for-joint-celebration-of-world-day-of-fasting-2010ramadan-1431/

    August 20, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  3. Muslim

    Dear readers,
    I was looking over some comments and thought I would clarify a few point about my country America, my Constitution, and my religion Islam.
    -According to the Constitution of the US, all citizens are granted freedom of religion. And for anyone not aware of this fact, America is made up of many different religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism (or Vedantist), Buddhism, etc... and others that do not believe in organized religion or believe in God at all. America is a nation that prides itself in the freedoms that it grants its citizens. We do not copy other nations standard of intolerance, we set the standards of tolerance for the world.
    – Terrorist are responsible for the horrible acts that took place in this country on 9/11, not Muslims. Al Qaeda, is a group that CLAIMS to be Muslim (but is NOT) and have made their own interpretation and understanding of the Quran and Islam and have themselves said that they reject all traditional Islamic thought. They are comprised of uneducated and illiterate people. An absurd majority of them have not even read the Quran, they hear about it from people who have not read the Quran either! Muslims condemn these people and their actions. A group of extremist does not represent the one billion plus Muslims
    that inhabit this Earth.
    – For those who haven't read the Quran or know anything about Islam, please, get a Quran and read it, find a Muslim and ask them about their religion.In the Quran, Muslims are taught to respect the people of the book. In the Quran, the people of the book are Jews and Christians, because they were given books of guidance from God through prophets.
    – Muslim women do cover themselves, and so do nuns, and orthodox jewish women. In fact, please go to the Bible, Corinthians! Its says women should cover their head. This is nothing new or uncommon, its called, people practicing their faith! By the way, how long is Mary's (the mother of Jesus) hair? Oh wait, she covers her hair too... (side note: According to Islamic beliefs, Mary is considered the most pious of women and is granted a high place in Paradise for her righteousness)
    – Another interesting note to make is that this New York mosque, which was once the Burlington Coat Factory, was bought a long time before now, How interesting that politicians are making an issue of it now, before elections. Its a way to make an enemy and prey off of the emotions of misinformed people.
    – Im a Muslim, born and raised here, proud of my country, and not ashamed of my beliefs. I am also a pre-med student. Are you telling me that the hundreds of Muslims that are doctors, lawyers, teachers, regular kids flipping burgers for pocket money, janitors, your neighbors, students, your co-workers want to hurt you? WRONG, please use your head, think about things, and don’t believe everything you hear on the TV.
    I leave you with a story that Muslims are taught by Muhammad about Jesus, whom we believe to be a prophet of God. A man came to Jesus and began saying horrible things to him, Jesus only replied with good words. Soon after, the man left and the companions of Jesus asked him why he only responded with good when that man was saying such bad things. Jesus responded by saying, "I can only give out of what I have". that means, he only had good in him, so he could only give good. I follow his example, as I follow the example of all the past prophets of God. I hope my actions and words are a manifestation of what resides within me and I wish my fellow citizens the same, regardless of what you may or may not believe.
    Peace (Salam)

    August 20, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  4. Halm garcia

    A Haunting Love
    by Beating Off Bob (beatingoffbob@yahoo.com)

    CNN you miss all the BIG point,
    Your reporter says that in Washington Pentagon there is a room for Pray and service and include the ISAM, BUT there is big BUT

    In NY city their Plans are for the construction of a "ISAM CENTER" , that imply not only a place to pray but a center of recreation and for all social live and swing pool and more ...for the ISALM center in he are like Arlington Cemetery few blocks from the Ground Zero.

    Will the Pentagon approve a center like that at Arlington Cemetery?
    Islam Center is NOT just an small room to pray. More even the women a kid has different entrances that men. Some that in the Pentagon room of pray you don’t have all are US solder. This 2 places They are NOT.., NOT the same

    August 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm |
    • Josie

      So what is wrong with Muslim Center? You act like something is wrong with having a recreation center/prayer center TWO BLOCKS away from the 9/11 site. There is a Jewish community center not far away. There is a catholic church in the area. There is a topless joint in the area. There are restaurants. There are all sorts of businesses and organizations who have lawfully obtained the permits and met zoning laws established by the REPRESENTATIVES FOR THE PEOPLE OF NEW YORK CITY. Not sure what you point is that as a recration center it somehow changes things.

      No, the Pentagon would not approve a recreation center at the Arlington Cemetery. That is public land. The New York City land that the Islamic/Muslim center is on is private and met zoning requirements.

      Sorry...your argument has no logic or maybe you don't understand that it is the business of New York City to determine the building zoning requirements for building on PRIVATE LAND which is what the proposed Muslim center. Would you have a problem with it if it were a Jewish or a Buddist or a Christian recreation center? Would you shut down the topless joint that is nearby. Would you change the zoning so that half the businesses within a 3 block radius of the 9/11 site would have to go out of business?

      August 19, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
    • Jason

      Well, since there are headstones at Arlington with stars of David, crosses and crescents I would sure hope so.

      August 20, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
  5. madmo

    Ramadan 2010 Scorecard

    Day 8 In the name of The Religion of Peace In the name of All Religions
    Terror Attacks 37 0
    Dead Bodies 165 0
    for complete details try 'the religion of peace dot com'

    August 19, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  6. madmo

    ISLAM IS TROJAN HORSE. THIS IS WHAT COMES TO YOUR CITY IF YOU DONT WAKE UP.

    A court in Saudi Arabia is seeking medical advice on whether it is possible to cut the spinal cord of a man as a punishment after he was indicted of causing paralysis to another man during a fight, a local daily reported on Thursday.

    emirates247.com/news/region/saudi-court-mulls-verdict-to-cut-defendant-s-spine-2010-08-19-1.281080

    Following is from Jihad Watch comments by Robert Spenser:
    It's in the Qur'an: "We ordained therein for them: 'Life for life, eye for eye, nose or nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.' But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (No better than) wrong-doers." - Qur'an 5:45

    August 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Q8tyAmerican

      @madmo – first, the article says THE VICTIM wants the attacker to be severed (and by the way, they never did it).

      Secondly, about the "eye for an eye" stuff – sorry, not just in Islam: "The phrase, "an eye for an eye", (Hebrew: עין תחת עין, ʿayin taḥath ʿayin (Modern: ayin tachat ayin, literally "eye under eye")), is a quotation from several passages of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 24:19–21, Exodus 21:22–25, and Deuteronomy 19:21) in which a person who has injured the eye of another is instructed to give the value of his or her own eye in compensation. At the root of this principle is that one of the purposes of the law is to provide equitable retribution for an offended party. It defined and restricted the extent of retribution in the laws of the Torah."

      Thirdly, if you read the WHOLE verse that you quoted, it SAYS THAT IT IS BETTER TO FORGIVE THE PERSON WHO did you harm – and that if you DON"T forgive that person, then you are as bad as they are! A very basic premise of forgiveness.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  7. steve

    There is a HUGE difference here. The Pentagon chapel is for all demoniations, not just Muslim. Also, there has been a chapel at the Pentagon, where Muslims could pray, LONG before the 9/11 attacks. Comparing apples to oranges.

    August 19, 2010 at 9:20 am |
    • Josie

      ONLY LEGALLY is a big difference between the Penetagon chapel and the muslim site and BOTH have the legal right to be there. The Pentagon is built with public funds so it has to be non-denominational and open to all denominations. The Muslim center is built with PRIVATE funds on PRIVATE land and has met the LEGAL REQUIREMENTS for building there. It is 2 BLOCKS from the 9/11 site. It is surrounded by buildings with businesses and other private organizations.

      So, there is the SENSITIVITY argument. The Pentagon Muslim worship right emphasizes that those most effected by 9/11 at the Pentagon have no issue within steps of where they work. Those with friends and family killed at the Pentagon and at the twin towers included Muslims. It seems that if no one at the Pentagon complained about the presence of Muslim worship close to where their friends and family perished due to a terrorist act, why should anyone, especially those not living in the immediate area complain about a Muslim prayer center within a community center that is NOT ON THE SITE OF 9/11. It is 2 BLOCKS away on PRIVATE LAND.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
  8. esthermiriam

    Pentagon chapel as pictured doesn't seem to offer a lot of room for prayer rugs, or for any service not in hierarchical seating.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  9. Major_Dad

    Isn't this sweet. The liberal mainstream media finds a reason to justify the Mosque at ground zero by comparing apples to oranges. A nondenominational chapel at a military installation is no comparison to a purposfully built Mosque on the land "conquered" by Muslims. Just because Muslims can use a room in the Pentagon to pray doesn't mean that it necessarily becomes a symbol of Muslim victory, which is exactly what building a Mosque at ground zero equates to.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:31 am |
    • Josie

      Last time I knew, abiding by constitutional law was a conservative value. So how can you characterize the former site of the Burlington Coat factory as being on "conquered land". It is 2 blocks away and blocked by many other buildings. It is a community center with a prayer room. While there terrorists may claim themselves as doing it in the name of religion in the same way the KKK conducts their activities in the name of christianity, the vast majority of both Muslims and christians are good people who just have a different religion. Many of us have ancestors who came to America to avoid persecution for their varying religious beliefs. We have a freedom of religion. As long as the Muslim community center meets the zoning requirements of New York City (which it did), why do people like you have the right to say something shouldn't be built on private property many miles away from your home. It is pure stupidity and shows that you do not hold the conservative value of freedom of religion.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  10. Steve

    Can't people see that is is purely a political ruse devised prior to the upcoming election to twist 'the people's' religious beliefs into self serving hatred. An attempt to pit people against the current administration. This is not a new method. This is a last ditch attempt (or one of many), made by religious conservatives to divide our country. Recent attempts have been made at race. Those were based on half truths. This religious attempt is based on half truths. I was raised a God/Allah fearing Catholic...oh yes...same god (I'm no longer a practicing Catholic, but still a believer). We are all brothers of Abraham. As such, we need to start acting like brothers, and unite against those who would pit our differences against us. They will only weaken our great country. They do not truly believe in a higher guiding being, but only in the promise of the almighty dollar. They use Christians to further their monetary profit. We must together embrace our similarities instead of our differences, and form a strong union against the power hungry and all the religious extremists. Do not let them blind us on this issue. Had the 'Islamic Cultural Center' been planned and built four years ago, nobody would have known. Think about it. The Imam of the center used to travel the world, paid by George Bush's administration, telling the masses how great and tolerant the U.S. is. Now we are using him and his community as a point of division. So sad. Please people...

    August 19, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  11. Muslim

    Dear readers,
    I was looking over some comments and thought I would clarify a few point about my country America, my Constitution, and my religion Islam.
    -According to the Constitution of the US, all citizens are granted freedom of religion. And for anyone not aware of this fact, America is made up of many different religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism (or Vedantist), Buddhism, etc... and others that do not believe in organized religion or believe in God at all. America is a nation that prides itself in the freedoms that it grants its citizens. We do not copy other nations standard of intolerance, we set the standards of tolerance for the world.
    – Terrorist are responsible for the horrible acts that took place in this country on 9/11, not Muslims. Al Qaeda, is a group that CLAIMS to be Muslim (but is NOT) and have made their own interpretation and understanding of the Quran and Islam and have themselves said that they reject all traditional Islamic thought. They are comprised of uneducated and illiterate people. An absurd majority of them have not even read the Quran, they hear about it from people who have not read the Quran either! Muslims condemn these people and their actions. A group of extremist does not represent the one billion plus Muslims that inhabit this Earth.
    – For those who haven't read the Quran or know anything about Islam, please, get a Quran and read it, find a Muslim and ask them about their religion.In the Quran, Muslims are taught to respect the people of the book. In the Quran, the people of the book are Jews and Christians, because they were given books of guidance from God through prophets.
    – Muslim women do cover themselves, and so do nuns, and orthodox Jewish women. In fact, please go to the Bible, Corinthians! Its says women should cover their head. This is nothing new or uncommon, its called, people practicing their faith! By the way, how long is Mary's (the mother of Jesus) hair? Oh wait, she covers her hair too... (side note: According to Islamic beliefs, Mary is considered the most pious of women and is granted a high place in Paradise for her righteousness)
    – Another interesting note to make is that this New York mosque, which was once the Burlington Coat Factory, was bought a long time before now, How interesting that politicians are making an issue of it now, before elections. Its a way to make an enemy and prey off of the emotions of misinformed people.
    – Im a Muslim Woman who wears the hijab (head scarf), born and raised here, proud of my country, and not ashamed of my beliefs. I am also a medical student. Are you telling me that the hundreds of Muslims that are doctors, lawyers, teachers, regular kids flipping burgers for pocket money, janitors, your neighbors, students, your co-workers want to hurt you? WRONG, please use your head, think about things, and don’t believe everything you hear on the TV.
    I leave you with a story that Muslims are taught by Muhammad about Jesus, whom we believe to be a prophet of God. A man came to Jesus and began saying horrible things to him, Jesus only replied with good words. Soon after, the man left and the companions of Jesus asked him why he only responded with good when that man was saying such bad things. Jesus responded by saying, "I can only give out of what I have". that means, he only had good in him, so he could only give good. I follow his example, as I follow the example of all the past prophets of God. I hope my actions and words are a manifestation of what resides within me and I wish my fellow citizens the same, regardless of what you may or may not believe.
    Peace (Salam) and Happy Ramadan to you all.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  12. MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI

    here, In America, some think that only if we had school prayer and did not have abortion this country would have no more problems,. I wish I could tell them, if your sixteen year old is "dating" no amount of school prayer will save their virginity, not school prayer not public be headings, will make people live a moral life, and no amount of prayer will stop a disaster. They have Taliban, and we have white superamists , black panthers, AND KKK, PLUS A THOUSAND at the ready.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  13. take over the usa

    The laws in the usa make it easy for muslims to take over the usa and enforce islam on everyone

    August 19, 2010 at 1:46 am |
    • MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI

      Please stop listening to talk radio, you will lose your hair, and get a fat belly

      August 19, 2010 at 2:03 am |
    • Typecast

      @MOHAMMED N. RAZAVI

      lol

      August 20, 2010 at 3:46 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.