American Muslims were invited to offer prayers to Allah inside the nation's most iconic Christian church Friday in Washington, D.C., but the intended message of peace, harmony and tolerance isn't so well received in Muslim countries, according to Christian leaders contacted by WND.
The Washington National Cathedral, which earned the title "America's House of Prayer" for its hosting of presidential funerals and inauguration-related prayer services, was turned into a virtual mosque in which Muslims bowed toward Mecca and shielded their eyes from the Christian cross.
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Prayer carpets were arranged diagonally, to the side of the sanctuary, so worshipers could face in the direction of Mecca without seeing crosses or other Christian symbols. Muslims are not supposed to pray in view of sacred symbols "alien to their faith," the Voice of America reported.
The Episcopal cathedral becomes the first church in America to host a Muslim-led prayer service. And this isn't just any church. Famous people are buried there, including President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller and Admiral George Dewey, and it is perhaps the most recognizable Christian sanctuary in the nation with its soaring Gothic architecture and grand entrance hall.
A receptionist at the cathedral told WND Friday the event was not open to the public but it was live-streamed on the cathedral's website. Attendance was by invitation only, and the invite list came from the South African ambassador, who helped plan the event. She said she did not know if any Christians were invited to the service or how many may have attended.
Christian woman stands up, speaks out
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The cathedral has hosted Muslims at interfaith services in the past. But this is the first time the cathedral has invited Muslims to come and lead their own prayers there.
But just as the Imam was about to give the Muslim call to prayer, a Christian woman, who apparently sneaked into the service, stood up, pointed to the cross and shouted "Jesus Christ died on that cross. He is the reason we are to worship only Him. Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. We have built enough of your mosques in this country. Why don't you worship in your mosques and leave our churches alone? ...America was founded on Christian principles...Leave our church alone!"
She was immediately grabbed by the arms and forcibly led out of the church by two men. The unidentified woman's interruption of the service was captured on video by one of the attendees and posted online at PamelaGeller.com.
Planners of the event said in a news release that they hoped "people around the world will take note of this service and the welcome extended by the Cathedral so that Muslims everywhere will adopt a reciprocal welcome of Christians by Muslims."
WND asked for and was provided a recorded video of the service (see below). But the cathedral's video of the event did not show the Christian woman standing up, walking to the front of the church and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then rebuking the Muslims.
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Christian leaders react
The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, said in a Facebook post Thursday that the Muslim prayer service at the National Cathedral is "sad to see" because the church should only open its doors for worship of "the One True God of the Bible."
Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, said, "Tomorrow, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. – one of the most prominent Episcopal churches in America – will host a Muslim prayer service to Allah.”
"It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins," said Graham. "Jesus was clear when He said, 'I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me' (John 14:6)."
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The cathedral's press release said the goal was to encourage greater acceptance between Christians and Muslims, calling the Islamic Jumma prayers a "powerful symbolic gesture."
"Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral shows more than hospitality," representatives for the National Cathedral said about the event. "It demonstrates an appreciation of one another's prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions."
The event was planned by the Rev. Gina Campbell, the cathedral's director of liturgy, and South African Ambassador to the United States Ebrahim Rasool, who is a Muslim.
Campbell spoke at the service and said a prayer "in the name of God" but did not mention Jesus Christ. She told her Muslim guests that "we approach the same God."
Watch video of Friday's entire Muslim prayer service below:
A statement by Rasool called the service "a dramatic moment in the world and in Muslim-Christian relations."
"This needs to be a world in which all are free to believe and practice and in which we avoid bigotry, Islamaphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Christianity and to embrace our humanity and to embrace faith," Rasool added.
But Christian convert and former Muslim Dr. Mark Christian said the gesture will never be reciprocated by Muslims. They would never allow Christians into a mosque sanctuary to hold a Christian-led prayer service.
"No, not ever. They can let Christians and Jews only in the U.S. and West sometimes into their mosques, because they have an agenda, but they will let them in the basement or another room, not in the main sanctuary and certainly not to say a Christian prayer. That would make it unclean. That would defile their sanctuary in their eyes," said Christain, who lives under a fatwa placed on his life by Muslims in his native Egypt.
The Washington Post quoted a local Muslim spokesperson who said: "We want the world to see the Christian community is partnering with us and is supporting our religious freedom in the same way we are calling for religious freedom for all minorities in Muslim countries. Let this be a lesson to the world."
Sponsors of the event included the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, and the Islamic Society of North America, also called ISNA.
CAIR and ISNA are known front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood. The groups in question have been named as unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terrorism funding trial in U.S history. ISNA and CAIR were directly involved in laundering money through fake charities to fund Hamas operations as documented in court records related to the 2009 Holy Land Foundation trial.
This is not the first time the National Cathedral has delved head first into controversial territory. In June, it celebrated "Gay Pride Month" by allowing a transgender priest to preach a sermon from its pulpit.
Making 'tolerance a god'
Joel Richardson, a Christian filmmaker and author of "The Islamic Antichrist," said the hypocrisy of the Muslim world is "beyond words" when it comes to interfaith programs like the one held Friday at the National Cathedral. The Christians who host such events have made "tolerance" a god, he said.
"We as a Christian nation are called to love Muslims in our midst but that does not mean we allow ourselves to be subjugated in their presence," he said.
Not only would such a prayer service by Christians not be allowed in a mosque in Islam's home country, Saudi Arabia, he said, but Christians would not even be allowed to build a church there.
"Why don't they allow churches in Saudi Arabia? Because that's a sign of subjugation," Richardson said.
The message being sent from Washington to Muslim countries around the world is not one of tolerance but one of subjugation, Richardson said.
"To them, they are sending a sign that they have defeated us, that they're conquering us. There's conquest and occupation," he said.
To find an example of how tolerant Muslims are of Christians and Jews in their "holy places," one should look at Istanbul, Turkey, and Jerusalem, Israel, Richardson said.
In Istanbul, one of the oldest, most famous Christian churches, the Hagia Sophia cathedral, has recently been turned into a museum by the Turkish Islamic government and is in the process of transitioning into a mosque.
Richardson visited there last year and said Christians were not allowed to pray overtly Christian prayers in the former church. The same is true on Jerusalem's Temple Mount, which Arabs call al-Aqsa and guard closely for any sign of Jews or Christians uttering prayers.
"The Temple Mount was Jewish, but Muslims conquered it so the idea of them allowing Christian prayers was out of the question," Richardson said. "They view it as their conquest of us, and to them once something has been conquered it's considered Islamic from there on forward, and they're allowed to wage jihad to maintain it. The hypocrisy of the Islamic world is beyond words on these matters."
Islam as the 'perfect' conquering religion
Mark Christian, whose father and uncle are Muslim Brotherhood members and whose great-uncle was one of its co-founders in Egypt during the 1960s, also cited a "conquering mentality" that is dominant among Muslim Brotherhood organizations.
He said Islam has a "supremacy problem" based upon the idea that Islam has perfected the religions practiced by Jews and Christians.
"In Islamic tradition, supremacy is demonstrated to all by practicing Islam where Christianity or Judaism once reigned," he said. "This is what animates the building of mosques on the holy sites of other religions. It is a conqueror's philosophy."
The decision to allow a Muslim imam to conduct an Islamic service from the altar of the National Cathedral in Washington is to Muslims the functional equivalent of Islam standing supreme atop Christianity in America "in our own house," said Christian, who founded the Global Faith Institute in Nebraska and has been confronting an interfaith project in that city.
While America's interfaith community may be well-intentioned, they are more often than not used by radical Islamists as a method of appearing "mainstream," he said. The Islamists gain legitimacy while the Christians are left holding a watered down gospel message.
According to Pew Research Center, Muslims make up just under 1 percent of the U.S. population.
"CAIR and ISNA are known fronts for the Muslim Brotherhood. Is there really any doubt as to how they will present the National Cathedral event to their followers?" Christian asks. "Perhaps as a reciprocal gesture, the rector of the National Cathedral can offer communion at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem? I won't hold my breath."
Todd Nettleton, director of media and public relations for Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that advocates for persecuted Christians around the world, many of them in Islamic countries, said the event sends a chilling message that was perhaps not intended by its Episcopal organizers.
"I can't think of a country where Muslims would willingly and openly allow a Christian prayer service to take place inside of a mosque," he told WND. "We have on occasion seen some pretty amazing things. I recall some of my co-workers in Sudan wanted to show 'The Jesus Film,' and the best screen available was the side of a mosque so it was used for that purpose, but not a prayer service or evangelistic service inside of a mosque – that would likely never happen.
"And this is the National Cathedral here, a national symbol of Christianity, so you would not see something at a prominent level like a grand mosque in Cairo opening up to a Christian prayer service. That would never happen."
Sending the wrong message
The message received by Muslims around the world will be clear, Nettleton said.
"I think of the pictures that will be seen across the world of Muslims praying and holding an Islamic prayer services in the National Cathedra. People will think, 'Wow, more people must be becoming Muslims in America,' and, 'They're taking over Christian churches now in America.' Frankly, I wish more churches would allow Muslims in to hear the gospel message because that is what they need to hear. It's disappointing to see this. It seems like a compromise that doesn’t necessarily send the right message."
Richardson said tolerance is a Christian virtue that can be counterproductive when taken to extremes.
"Although tolerance is a good principle that's built into who we are, that tolerance has become the national idol of our time and our country to the point where issues such as freedom, liberty and really just rational thought have been subordinated on that great altar of tolerance," he said. "We've literally become suicidal as a nation. When we welcome in those that are foundationally opposed to who we are as a nation and our Constitution, that's called suicide. When someone says 'I'll eat anything' and someone hands them a gallon of antifreeze, that’s suicide. We reach out in tolerance, but we actually welcome in that which is hyper intolerant."