D.C.’s delegate to Congress today asked “what can we do about the irrationally negative views of Islam and Muslims that have grown since 9/11” after a prayer service at Northern Virginia mosque Dar Al-Hijrah.
The Falls Church mosque was home to imam Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born al-Qaeda recruiter whose videos continue to inspire jihadists today. Sept. 11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf al-Hazmi attended prayer services at the mosque, as noted in the 9/11 Commission report.
Besides D.C.’s Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) attended Friday’s prayer service to show solidarity with the local Muslim community.
At a press conference after prayers, Norton said “one might ask what a small band of members of Congress can do to counter indiscriminate bigotry against Muslim Americans.”
“What can we do when the loudest voices preaching Islamophobia are amplified daily? The three of us would have to concede not much, although we know of many more members who would have joined us today had Congress not adjourned yesterday, and many are attending services at mosques in their home districts,” she said.
The delegate said they need to ask what can be done to counter surveys that show “Americans with negative opinions about Islam have doubled in number.”
“I am not at all sure, but I know what it means to belong to a minority group, and I know we must not leave Muslims, who are only about 3 percent of the American population, alone,” continued Norton, who is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “We in the Congress represent millions of Americans, who would join us in saying Muslim Americans and refugees are not alone.”
Norton lauded her anti-profiling amendment, which grants funds to states to collect profiling data, being included in the transportation bill that passed the House on Thursday.
“The police may know of these profiling laws, but most Americans today know more about anti-Muslim rhetoric,” she said. “It will take more than laws to stem the bigotry that brings us to this mosque today. American anti-Muslim rhetoric is marketed here and worldwide as a central ingredient of ISIL’s recruiting efforts. Showing solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters is the best defense for all of us.”
Beyer told people at the mosque that “we don’t all have the Donald Trump version of Muslims in America.”
In trying to rally members of Congress to come to the mosque this week, Imam Johari Abdul-Malik said “many in our community feel under siege in recent weeks.”
“Women taking their children to school have been heckled by passersby, and we experienced two incidences of hate violence,” he said.
The mosque reported being targeted with a Molotov cocktail two weeks ago.
During his sermon, Imam Shaker Elsayed told Muslims they should “leave not your children to be misled,” and told journalists to “not be instigators of World War III” with what they report.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), one of two Muslim members of Congress, attended services at his home mosque today. “We must all stand together and condemn these acts of hatred and intolerance—they are not who we are as a people,” Ellison said Wednesday. “Sadly, attacks on Muslim Americans have increased due to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump calling for the surveillance of mosques and registering Muslim Americans.”
The other Muslims member of Congress, Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), was on the road today.