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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. Michael Clemons

    There were no Muslims on the Mayflower so the freedom of religion excuse does not apply. This is a christian nation founded on Christian principles. Muslims are dogs and all need a bullet in the head. Gay people are weak minded and do not deserve to serve among honorable people. If muslims want to pray then go to a Muslim community we do not accept your lifestyle and if you are wondering if I'm a member of the Klan the answer is no just a proud black man who served his country and entitled to his opinion. I took pride in dismissing and getting rid of gays while I was in the Army. Being gay is a sin and you will be judged and punished come judgement day along with all of the Muslim dogs!

    August 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  2. Jones

    Our media is played a big role in the negative image buildup, when you want to see them in a pre-determined bad lens, you will always see them in that light, cause your sense organs have defected to that.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  3. marine2543

    Can't wait for the day I can draw down on the muslims ( small m ). They are never going to stone any woman in my life to death. Moderate muslim ( small m ), there is no such thing.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:24 pm |
    • Jones

      Why do you club all community with the few, I have seen that stoning happening in Iran, how many muslim countries are there 50 to 60 .... You don't take a bad example of one and brush it out to the whole community, that's unfair.
      If they don't like to use a lethal injection like us, then let them use what they see fit.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      right. Because my Nebraskan-born prom date (who happens to be Muslim) is just itching to bomb something.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  4. dmf

    It is strange how Muslim prayer places are becoming new these days . The Muslims are required to pray five times a day . The prayers can be offered not only in mosques but any where , a reasonably clean 1×3 ft space on the floor with or without rug or mat . The Chapels in the neighborhoods , Malls , Office buildings , Universities , Air ports any place you name it , have been popular places of Muslim prayers for decades all over these United States . You better believe it most Americans are not the likes of Ginerich , Palin and a few others . The Lower Manhattan Islamic community center and mosque issue will soon be out of the front pages of news papers , cable networks' talk shows and headlines . The GOP leaders have shown their true colors and hidden agenda of hate and bigotry . This will not be forgotten or erased from the memory of a whole lot of voters around the country . This issue will back fire at the GOP in November elections .

    August 18, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • Jones

      Very Intelligent accessment, I would second that. This is being used as a election fodder. Should the majority support tilt. I bet those GOP's will flip flop in line with the masses.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Hendrik

      @Jones,

      Completely agree. This is all about politics and trying to gain the upper hand. When this stupid issue is resolved, the GOP will flip around again. They are a bunch of losers. It is a shame that we Americans can't figure this out and always go for their fear factor.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  5. Jones

    Listen, this is really simple math. There are about 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. That's a very, very large number. That's 1,400,000,000. How many people are members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda? Anybody know?

    In 2001 the estimated size was about 500 to 1000 people in Al Qaeda but now they have been nearly completely decimated and destroyed with about100 left in Afghanistan according to our own estimates. Let's assume they have the maximum amount and have replaced everyone they've lost since 2001: 1000 people.

    In 2010, the estimated size of the Taliban was about 36,000 people. So, that total comes out to about 36,000 potential enemy combatants from those two groups.

    Divide 1,400,000,000 by 36,000. That means, they are a minority group within the global muslim community that represents only about 1 out of 37,838 members of the global community. 0.00264 of a percent out of the maximum 100 percentage points.

    In other words, what this means is that 99.99736 percent of Muslims are completely innocent of having anything to do with the WTC attacks.

    Think about that. To condemn Muslims as a group for the actions of this particularly tiny minority of fanatics is insane in the extreme and is an insult to the intelligence of any right thinking person. It is an afront to reason to prevent these honest, hard working americans from building this Mosque because of what some tiny crazy group did here.

    The Taliban aren't even directly responsible for those attacks but they are indirectly responsible which is the only reason they were included. less

    August 18, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  6. Pastor Evans

    Everything for the Muslims and Islam, but kept Franklin Graham out, the "CHRISTIAN"!!! Another sign of the times we are living in!!! But no President, Politician, Religion/ Religious Leader, University Professor, etc...all of which have always been the biggest hinerance to real believers in Jesus Christ I might add, can stop the establishment and advancement of the Kingdom of GOD!!! Praise the Lord Jesus Christ!!! This message all by itself offends many in this country because they really don't know GOD!!! They have a form of godliness but they deny the true power of Him!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Hendrik

      @Pastor Evans,

      I can just hear you screaming your righteous Christian values. Maybe I will go to hell for not being Christian enough but I will be sure to meet you there. The way you act will surely earn you a one way ticket to the oven.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  7. Bobby

    Maybe they can all pray for the end of war!

    August 18, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  8. Don

    That's it, slap me in the face. What is the world coming to.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm |
  9. Jinn

    The US Military is quite naive considering how many times they have been attacked by Muslims, including several attacks by Muslims within their own ranks

    August 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  10. andy

    News flash – Muslims believe in Jesus Christ too. They do not worship him as god but as a great prophet. You see there are those who have differing degrees of fanaticism in all religions. When Fox news decided that they needed divisive issues to fortify a real cause to get republicans elected, they chose something they could stir up anger in patriotic Americans. It's their rallying cry, kinda like remember the alamo – 9/11. So Glenn beck wants to bring about the Apocalypse and the Australian Rupert Murdoch decided to Prove the Supreme Court wrong and Obama right by Giving 1 million dollars to the Republican party and showing how a foreigner can sway public opinion in American elections. He loves the Stupidity of the people of this country. He has, with his network created Islamaphobia and turned Americans against Muslims through his not stop 24 hour crusade. With lies and mis-information created a network that twists, distorts and cuts pieces of tape just to change public opinion. The new McCarthey in before your eyes. Rupert Murdoch and Fox do not report real news, they create fictional opinions. They called the Muslim community center, the Ground zero mosque. When it is further away than 2 other mosque currently in the city. Why did Fox leave that out? To create a controversy where none really existed. All the while Rupert Murdoch, an Australian, is now influencing an American election with his money. I thought Justice Roberts said this would not happen under his ruling. Fox new is the Republican and Australian right wing news.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • Hendrik

      @andy,

      You are so very right. Great thanks for some good insight.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
    • HatmanNoE

      @andy
      I think you've hit upon the truth. Being fooled is bad enough. That Murdoch is able to do such things is criminal.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  11. Sad American State

    The posts here on this CNN board are outrageous. There are always attacks about the right wing, or Fox News, or conservative thinking. Not all Muslims are extremists, sure, of course not. I don't know of anyone that believes that. However, it is common sense, and good judgement should be used when the sensitivities of many are being offended by a Mosque being built near a site that Muslim Extremists destroyed. Therefore, in the name of a faith, thousands of people lost their lives. I think it is bad judgement to place a mosque near the World Trade Center. The military has always been open to all faiths. Our country has also been open to all faiths. However, our country is in fact largely Christian. That is something we should all be proud of. However, in today's world society has viewed materialism, pornography, violence, and immorality as a form of tolerance. In fact, Atheism is now advocated and is largely against Church and State, while Atheism in itself is a set of beliefs, though not organized in a religious form, are a solid state of beliefs, and therefore no different than faith. As for the comment on Gay Marriage. Gay Marriage is not a civil right no more than polygamy is a civil right. Nor is it the next civil rights movement. Being Gay is not a nationality, ethnicity, or even a proven genetic disposition.

    It is sad to see so many people lost, yet on forums aim to have such conviction of their beliefs that are in fact without any basis. If you ever ask an Atheist, (who almost always support a liberal belief system), how they base morals on their Atheist belief system, it is interesting to see how they try to play God, and have their own set of rules. Atheism is in fact very egotistical, and tends to be by people who think they are more intelligent than those who they would call sheep of major religions.

    When viewing this article in its context, I can see that the author is trying to draw a similarity between worship at the Pentagon, and the building of a mosque in lower manhattan. The two are completely different. One is a military standard where all have a place to worship inside a Chapel at the Pentagon. In lower Manhattan it is a case of bad judgement, and is not necessary. In fact, by many it may be seen as Muslim conquest.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  12. Johnson

    Dear Americans,

    Please do not view us all as dirt bags. Like we see in history. The people with education have more control over others that don't. Most of us are just simple un-educated people. Please don't view us all like we are terrorists.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:30 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Whether you choose to be a Muslim, a Mormon or a Methodist is your business. You can be judged only on what you do, not on what you believe or on where you take your sabbath. People who put you down because you don't pray where they pray are morons. There are places in this world where religious freedom is non-existent, but America should not belong on such a list. America has a long list of struggles with religious freedom – from the very beginning to now. A lot of bad blood has been shed in this country on the way to the realization that the best way to live is to live and let live.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  13. Sue

    One other thing...I have not checked to know if this is true, but I saw a few posts on another blog,that said there is already a mosque a couple blocks away from Ground Zero. Apparently it was there prior to the attack. If thats so, why do they need another one, if it is for religous reasons? They could go to that one, Is this why it has now apparently being called a "community center"? Mayby somebody already figured out that it could be used as a point to not want it there.
    They were offered another site for thier whatever you want to call it, but they refused....Hmmmm...why is that I wonder??

    August 18, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
    • John

      800,000 Muslims in NYC, 200 mosques. That's 4,000 Muslims to each mosque. Can you see why they might want a few more?

      August 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      Who are you to tell any American whether or not to build a house of worship? Whether the Muslims need another house of worship is their business, not yours. Butt out – or go to Iran, where such thinking is more in vogue.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm |
    • John

      Heck, even Iran has something like 73 churches. The only Muslim nation without *any* churches is Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government is in talks with the Vatican to open up a Catholic church there for foreign workers.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
    • Jones

      Soooo ? are we to dictate who should build what ? since when are we aristocrats, isn't ours a democracy in which we have freedom of beliefs & religion.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:22 pm |
    • Q8tyAmerican

      @John – thanks for pointing out the fact that there are churches in ALL (but 1) Muslim country – and by the way, the Saudi government allows embassies to hold religious services on their grounds, so if you ARE a Christian in Saudi, you CAN go to services. And, many of the company "compounds" have "prayer services" on their grounds as well – so again, you CAN congregate and pray. In Kuwait, the government has even subsidized the building of some of the churches, especially Catholic, since there are so many Catholic Filipinos and Indians here.

      August 19, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  14. Bryan

    There is a world of difference between the military and the civilian... The Uniform Code of Military Justice vs. The Bill of Rights.. Two totally different bodies of law...

    August 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      The military swear to uphold the Constitution. That includes the Bill of Rights.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  15. Average Moderate

    I get annoyed that people forget about the Muslims who died in the towers after the terrorists smashed into them. Not all of them were Americans, but they all were going about their day, working for their respective employers, thinking that they would go home to their families that evening, just like all of the other innocents who died. There are already several mosques within a few blocks of"ground zero", and have been for several generations. There is nothing wrong with having one more, and everything wrong with denying American citizens religious liberty.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • Michael Clemons

      Too bad more Muslims did not die when the towers went down. Muslims are not American citizens, they are the offspring of dogs and pigs!

      August 18, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      @Michael

      Wouldn't those be digs or pogs?

      Really, your hatred is showing...

      August 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  16. Otoyo

    There is image and then there is reality. Those pre occupied with image, use religion differently. They are the ones whose words are filled with hate. You can tell a lot about their personal lives by what they write. Those in tune with reality have no time for such emptiness.They are busy sipping the sweet wine while the haters argue about which wine glass has the best and acceptable design. They think the patterns on the curtains are what is being concealed. Some how they think that if they scream at the top of their lungs, everyone will prescribe to their particular belief. Agnosticism and Atheism are forms of religions too. Self worshiping.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  17. Sue

    You right on Reality!
    Listen people, we have to be careful what we let the Muslims do here, in this country. They want to worship and build a mosque, let them. But we have the right to say that we don't want it so close to where the Twin Towers stood. Nothing against the law about that.
    Furthermore, its harder now for the terrorists to get at us, because of the security around everywhere. But better a plan then to muscle thier way in looking for a "community center" (I think thats what it is now being called.) to blend in and blow our azzez right off the map. Not only that, even if it was so innocent, how long do you think it will take the bad boys to infiltrate and proceed with thier evil?
    People need to heal from 9/11, and this is certainly not the way to achieve that. Some of you people better WAKE UP!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      We need to be careful what we let the Muslims do here? Remember the last time somebody said that – about the Jews?
      As for telling Muslims not to build a mosque near Ground Zero, get a clue. Ground Zero is the hole where the World Trade Centers went down. It's IN New York City. It ISN'T New York City. You have no right to tell religious people to do their thing somewhere else. This is America.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • Jones

      We have taken our revenge, we have killed at least a 1000 times more than the WTC deaths, enough of this fear mongering.
      let's live in peace now.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      Sure you can have your say. Free speech.

      But we are a nation governed by laws. And there are no laws against them. They are free to put it up in accordance with all the local ordinances.

      Are we done now?

      August 18, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  18. Otoyo

    There is image and then there is reality. Those pre occupied with image, use religion differently. They are the ones whose words are filled with hate. You can tell a lot about their personal lives by what they write. Those in tune with reality have no time for such emptiness.They are busy sipping the sweet wine while the haters argue about which wine glass has the best and acceptable design. They think the patterns on the curtains are what is being concealed. Some how they think that if they scream at the top of their lungs, everyone will prescribe to their particular belief. Agnosticism and Atheism are forms of religions too. Theirs is self worshiping.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  19. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    Misanthropicus, if we're at war with Islam in general, are you saying our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan should start attacking all Muslims, not just those believed to be terrorists and insurgents? If we're at war with Islam, what should our strategy to win this war be? What are the victory conditions by which we know we have defeated Islam?

    August 18, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  20. andrew

    Gosh...let me get this right–the KKK and Davidians were extremist Christian groups, but they don't represent all Christians. Al qaeda is an extremist group, but they represent all Muslims.

    GOT IT! Conservative thinking!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • HistoryHistory

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

      August 18, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
    • REALITY

      You are a DAMN FOOOOOL... look up the BELIEFS of MUSLIMS vs. the BELIEFS of CHRISTIANS..and you will find STARK contrasts in the ACTIONS, SAYINGS, and TEACHINGS of mohammad and JESUS CHRIST... RESEARCH

      August 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • andrew

      I have, my friend. I just read more broadly than the simplistic fringe blatherings that you confine yourself to. It's called "education." Try it. I can help you with the big words, if you like.

      August 18, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • KDW

      @andrew Thank you!! I just don't understand how people don't see this.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
    • Bill Kilpatrick

      If I want to find actions and teachings that are starkly different from those of Jesus, I need only look at a lot of people who call themselves Christians.

      August 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • REALITY

      Bill Kilpatrick... you are right... but at least those individuals doing the wrong thing in Jesus' eyes would be KILLING, Lying, CHEATING, etc... while people doing things CORRECTLY by mohammad would BEHEAD NON BELIEVERS, STONE INNOCENT PEOPLE, and HAVE MULTIPLE WIVES at very YOUNG ages...

      AND YOU CAN FIND MANY CHRISTIANS THAT DO GREAT THINGS... STOP LYING TO YOURSELF!

      August 18, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
    • andrew

      I'm thinking about Sunday, already, when you folk will all be in your prayer circles asking for God to be tolerant and forgiving of you. But right now, you're in the driver's seat, screaming, "Crucify them!" A little self-righteous piety and power goes a long way, eh?

      August 18, 2010 at 10:00 pm |
    • tnusagirl

      i don't even understand the thinking that the KKK was an extreme Christian group...The KKK are evil. They are definitely in no way what I would even consider Christian!!!

      August 18, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • One Whose Name Means Beloved of God

      @tnusagirl

      Why do you think KKK burned crosses? Maybe you should look into this a little bit.

      AlQueda:Muslim as KKK:Christian
      (If you prefer, how about BranchDavidian:Christian?)

      The point is that right-wing nut jobs of either religion do not represent the whole of the religion or its practitioners.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • Typecast

      @andrew

      Your posts rock! Give 'em some more!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:34 am |
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About this blog

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.