October 16th, 2010
03:58 PM ET

Muslims gather in Washington for 'Islam on Capitol Hill'

CNN's Dan Gilgoff filed this report:

Hundreds of Muslims turned out Friday for a new annual event in Washington called Islam on Capitol Hill, the event's organizer said Saturday.

The event saw hundreds of Muslim children touring the halls of Congress, hours of prayers and speeches on the Capitol lawn, and a banquet at a hotel off the National Mall.

"It's important for young Muslims to understand the beauty of this country - that this is a land of freedom, even though there may be people objecting to building a mosque in New York or threatening to burn the Quran," said Abdul Malik, the event's organizer.

Malik said the event began last year and that he plans to continue holding it each year from now on.

He said Islam on Capitol Hill is aimed primarily at Muslim youth.

"Muslim children need to know that this is their country and that they have a responsibility to protect and honor it," said Malik, who is the youth director at the Bay County Islamic Society in Panama City, Florida. "I want to make sure they're not radicalized by any elements, especially on the internet."

"Hopefully, one day there will be many elected Muslim-American officials and they'll make a great contribution to this country," he said.

No one showed up to protest the event, Malik said, though he received hundreds of angry emails - including many he described as "hate mail" - ahead of the event.

"I didn't want this to be a protest, I wanted prayer and devotion," he said. "We didn't want anything confrontational."

"Our long-term goal is to make sure the Muslim community is integrated 100 percent into the rest of America," Malik said, "and is no longer viewed as some foreign agent or enemy force."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: DC • Islam • United States • Washington

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