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. teXoy


    August 19, 2010 at 1:39 am |

    If the Republicans, The TEA party, and the Right understood the situation, they would have said, oh yes, let the Muslims do what they want and then we will come back and try to pus our own agendas( creationism, school prayer, denying abortions, etc) in the name of religious freedoms, and the freedom of speech, too bad they were not quite as smart and blew it, I hope it is too late for that , and the Muslims will understand and back off NOW, without making much more of and ass of their selves, the door swings both ways!

    August 19, 2010 at 1:27 am |
    • Typecast

      The door swings both ways?

      August 19, 2010 at 1:37 am |


      August 19, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  3. IshH

    Here's the Quran for those of you who care to understand and learn...

    60:8 Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.
    60:9 Allah only forbids you, with regard to those who fight you for (your) Faith, and drive you out of your homes, and support (others) in driving you out, from turning to them (for friendship and protection). It is such as turn to them (in these circumstances), that do wrong.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  4. USS Mendota

    There is also a memorial to The Four Chaplains at the Pentagon. Those men showed what is best about our military.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:56 am |
  5. Normal

    To disallow or condemn Muslims for building that center in NY would be like denying Christians from building churches in any area of the Crusades or any area Christians committed the same types of inhuman crimes, and yes, that includes the KKK, the so-called Christians. If you ask them, they will tell you that they are the real Christians, which is obviously absurd. Keep in mind that Muslims are Muslims, and terrorists are terrorists. They are not the same, so people should not look at this issue as a "slap in the face". It has nothing to do with the actual killings in the name of whatever the terrorists kill for. If a terrorist says, "I'm a terrorist and hate all Christians, but I'd like a mosque right here", then you could see it as a slap in the face. But calling those innocent people terrorists or insensitive for wanting a mosque there, you are slapping them in the face.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • Abner Maladi

      What is it with all the face-slapping? Is this like "lipstick on a pig"? Must we keep reading "this is a slap in the face"?

      I guess mantras are not limited to religions.

      Power to the People!!!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  6. acmed Shams

    May we never forget how brutal and dictatorial the Taliban are and why US forces are so needed there
    Please watch this. Seriously.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  7. Robert Tobin

    What a sick country the UCSA (United CHRISTIAN States of America) is. Fancy having a Chapel in a buiilding devoted to killing people. Of course American Christisns believe the "Holy" Bible is thw "Word of God" with the Old Testament full of genocide, slaughter, mass murder, debauchery all done in the name of a Fictitous "God". Yes, Religion can be used to justify anything.


    August 19, 2010 at 12:14 am |
  8. rick

    Obama canceled the national day of prayer at the white house, you can't have a nativity scene in a public place but muslims can now pray at the pentagon whatever happened to the country that was founded on Christian believes? This will all change after the elections.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:11 am |
    • brad byers

      This country was found on religious freedom of any kind – including atheists. Our founding fathers were very big on separation of church and state. This "God" stuff – "One nation under God", "In God we trust" was added over time, often due to our fear of
      non-believing countries.

      August 19, 2010 at 12:55 am |
  9. Walt

    A friend of mine has started a new venture, IEDs that look like prayer mats. Business is good. Prophets are going through the roof.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:10 am |
  10. Reality

    The last prayer for said chapel should be:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers" , "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis, professors of religion and priests needed or desired. Ditto for their houses, chapels and classes of "worthless worship". It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.
    John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed

    It is therefore very disturbing that such religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:39 pm |

      The reality of the monotheistic religions is that the believers think their god is stupid, and does not really know everything, if they believed other wise the world today would be a better place than it is, http://tombstone001.blogspot.com/2006/09/beyond-stupid-god-and-immortal-man.html

      August 22, 2010 at 12:01 am |
  11. minnie

    I truly believe you people have forgotten about 9/11 in the name of being politically correct ant tolerant but i know for a fact i never will. What they want to do there is totally insensitive but actually i think they just don't care. their quaran teaches them to hate us and they are gonna bring us try to bring us down again from within our own country

    August 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  12. Jude

    Evidently our allowing muslim prayers at the Pentagon hasn't slowed down the desire of the jihadists to kill Americans. So how is the building of a mosque near ground zero going to stop the radical muslims from killing Americans? We all know they have the right to build a mosque anywhere, but it's their insensitivity to those who lost loved ones and friends on 9/11. Have the muslims in this country been attacked or maligned since 9/11? No, they have been treated with respect and that's all that we expect in return. They need to show compassion for their fellow Americans and build the mosque elsewhere.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  13. E

    Get rid of the satanic muslim prayers!!!

    August 18, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Typecast

      Get rid of the moronic religious posters!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  14. Tony

    How did gays and the KKK get into the conversation about muslims praying at the pentagon?
    You idiots cant even stick to the issue here!

    August 18, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  15. Toby

    I am all for pluralism and tolerance of competing world views, but we have no business having a prayer center in any government center or agency.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
    • Major_Dad

      You are "all for pluralism and tolerance of competing world views, but we have no business having a prayer center in any government center or agency"??? What part of that statement contains the "tolerance"?

      August 19, 2010 at 8:41 am |
  16. Canonscottage

    I agree that the military has become a more tolerant culture - there are Islamic chaplains in the services. There have been intolerant "Christian" chaplains - most noteworthy around the Air Force Academy - who are members of some of the more conservative denominations that take literally that they MUST convert others to their brand of Christianity. Part of this I think is that our younger citizens have grown up without many of the old stereotypes of individuals - not all, but many. So many of the issues other Americans fight about aren't their issues.

    August 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  17. Mark, Phoenix

    So, when is Newt going to come down and take a dump in the Chapel to show his outrage?

    August 18, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Hendrik

      @Mark, Phoenix,

      Yup, I wonder too. Newt is a jerk, as are all other Republicans, no exceptions.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jude

      What a pathetic and rude comment.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  18. Jack


    August 18, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  19. tnusagirl

    Again, I don't deny the Muslims the right to worship...They have a legal right to build a church where ever they want! That's never been an issue for me. The issue is why are they so determined to build in that particular area and why is the dedication on 9/11. To me that seems a little "rub it in your face" "look what we can do". I question the motive. And I understand that it was radical Muslims that done the damage, but it seems to me that the regular Muslims would not even want to put a mosque there or dedicate it on 9/11. So this is my problem with it!!

    August 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • Jones

      It is not what you think, please do your research. It has nothing to do with the location or site. It is a cultural center more than a mosque. That's the media spin you are twisting in.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      These people are seeking to build a cultural center near their homes. Their homes were near the World Trade Centers. Should they move?

      August 18, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • tnusagirl

      Ok fine, it's a cultural center/mosque that is being backed by the Hamas. And I think the location has everything to do with the controversy. A lot of people, including Muslims, lost loved ones on 9/11 and it seems that the motives should be questioned of choosing that location. I don't pay a lot of attention to media sensationalizing, I read and research on my own.

      August 18, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • Hendrik


      They are coming to take you away haha, they are coming to take you away haha, hehehaha to the funny farm, they are coming to take you away.

      You are a reall moron.

      August 18, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Typecast

      @tnusagirl You go girl!

      August 19, 2010 at 1:25 am |
    • Q8tyAmerican

      Sept 11 was probably chosen because it is the day of Eid Al-Fitr (the holiday celebrating the end of Ramadan fasting) – or maybe they chose it to commemorate the Muslim Americans who were killed on 9-11? Or maybe it just happened that way?

      And it is called a cultural center because it will have a basketball court (open to the community, not just Muslims), it will supposedly have a swimming pool and a cooking school – oh, and it will have Muslim prayer rooms. It is NOT a mosque being built.

      If you are interested, Keith Olbermann did a nice story about this topic – I don't normally listen to him but he really had the most intelligent thoughts about the whole subject of any news-type person I have heard speak upon it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0

      August 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  20. LALALaBoom

    The differant between every world religion = past mistakes, few stupid cults, war. = Begging for alot of forgivness

    Now muslims.... LALALALALALALA *Kabooooooooom* Yeessssssss!! 72 Virgins.

    Need I say more. Muslims or rag heads in general are hated because they are dirty, Smell bad, Do not take care of property, Do not give a crap when they dent your nice new car with the door of their 1990's rusted Corolla. Muslims want death to all who are not muslim, they have no tolerance anywhere in the world, unless they need someone or want something, than they become tolerant for the time being. They are Greedy, Rude, Arogant. They obsess over ninja's, hence why I think they dress their women as such. They do not work hard labour jobs, but rather open corner stores, Pizza Pizza's, Subways, Etc. They believe they are better than we are. They refuse to work in factories unless they get top jobs, if you refuse they sue the company for Racism. They have little to no respect for our values and laws, yet we should respect and bow down to every wish they make.

    I wanted to have children, until I realized how stupid our society has become. 2050 Whites are the minority. I refuse to have children so that they can grow up paying for these people's welfare, and struggle while these people laugh at us, and wish death upon us.

    August 18, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
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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.