U.S. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. led a large delegation of regional elected officials to participate in noon prayers at the Dar Al-Hijrah mosque on Route 7 in Falls Church Friday.
Under the leadership of Imam Johari Abdulmalik, the noon sermon and prayers known as Jumu’ah was also attended by U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of D.C. and U.S. Rep-. Betty McCollum of Minnesota along with Virginia State Representatives Barbara Favola, Alfonso Lopez, Scott Surovell, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Marcus Simon and Kathleen Murphy.
All spoke at a rally following the prayers to affirm the need for the spirit of respect, inclusion and solidarity to reflect core American values against the divisive rhetoric of hate and division they all denounced.
The Falls Church mosque was the site of an alleged hate crime last week when a man was charged with damaging property and using a hoax explosive device at the center.
However, Imam Abdulmalik was careful to tell the large crowd assembled for the post-prayers press conference that the act in questions was the result not of any organized hate effort, but the work of a single person known to many in the community, and the imam said he hoped the individual would get the mental health care he needed.
The heavy media coverage included some live TV feeds from Washington, D.C.-based stations.
Beyer kicked off the remarks citing Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s founding principles of religious freedom for Virginia and John Adams’ inclusion in the Treaty of Tripoli that the United States “holds no enmity against Muslims.” When divisions arise based on religious differences, he said, “American values are not being upheld,” and he cited a report from the Center for American Progress that $43 million was spent between 2001 and 2009 to promote anti-Muslim rhetoric in the U.S., and he denounced in that context the “continuing misinformation” that leads to killings and hate speech.
“Northern Virginia is one of the most diverse communities in America,” he said, “and we are a model for tolerance, respect and inclusion.”
Rep. Norton denounced the “anti-Muslim words coming out of official mouths, including statements by 31 governors that Syrian refugees, mostly women and children, would not be welcome in their states. “Solidarity is the best defense we all have” to the peddlers of hate. As a member of a racial minority, she added, “It is most important to know one is not alone. Today, she said, speaking to the congregation of the mosque, “You are not alone.”
Rep. McCollum reported that Imam Abdulmalik’s message in the prayer service was “one of love and acceptance.” Delegate Lopez noted that there are 108 different languages spoken in his 47th District that includes the mosque. He said “the ugly divisive rhetoric is un-American,” “it is not who we are as a country. State Sen. Favola said “It’s time for us to stand up. Name calling and divisiveness always leads to a world that is worse off.” Sen. Surovell, who said his grandparents settled as Jews in Fairfax County when they were made to feel isolated, called the hate speech going on now “an attack on our way of life.” Del. Keem cited his parents as immigrants from Korea to the U.S. when he was just a boy, and how far the American dream has enabled him to come. Del. Kory said “this is not a time for cowardice.” Del Simon said the terrorists’ efforts “to divide us is not working, they are driving us closer together out of defiance.” Del. .Murphy said “the Muslim community here is a community of compassion and caring. I am here because this is the right place to be.”
Nihad Awad, President and National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, assailed presidential candidate Donald Trump for “using his platform to cause and exploit a division in America.” He may be high in the polls but is low in the minds of anyone who thinks about our nation’s values and history.”