US cathedral opens doors for Muslim service

(Photo: REUTERS / Larry Downing)The Washington National Cathedral and five Muslim groups hold the first celebration of Muslim Friday Prayers, Jumaa, in the Cathedral's North Transept in Washington, November 14, 2014.

Washington National Cathedral recently became a "place of prayer for all people" as it opened its doors for a Muslim worship service on one day, which was interrupted by a heckler.

On November 14, the iconic Christian sanctuary was filled with sounds of Muslim prayers as American Muslims led their traditional Jummah prayer.

The carefully scripted ceremony was interrupted once when a well-dressed, middle-age woman in the audience suddenly rose and began shouting.

"America was founded on Christian principles. Why can't you worship in your mosque and leave our church alone!" she shouted, was ushered out by security aides, and the service continued, The Washington Post reported.

Canon Gina Gilland Campbell of the Washington National Cathedral told the Huffington Post that the incident "did not dampen the day" as everyone was captured by the beauty of the moment.

The prayers were followed by a sermon delivered by South African Ambassador Ebrahim Rasool.

"We come to this cathedral with sensitivity and humility but keenly aware that it is not a time for platitudes, because mischief is threatening the world," Rasool said.

"The challenge for us today is to reconstitute a middle ground of good people . . . whose very existence threatens extremism."

He praised religious freedom in the United States and criticized religious extremism, mentioning Islamic militants who have attacked Christians in the Middle East.

He then called on Muslims, Christians, and others to fight against extremism.

The idea for the service came after Campbell and Rasool organized an interfaith memorial service for the late Nelson Mandela last year.

The Jummah prayer was held with the support of Muslim leaders from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), Masjid Muhammad (the Nation's Mosque), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

The service was for invited guests, but was also livestreamed at the Cathedral's website.

In an interview with Voice of America, Rasool said he hopes the day will come when non-Muslims will be allowed to pray according to their own traditions even in mosques in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam.

"I think that we must return to the Muslim prophetic tradition in which the Prophet...invited Christians to his own mosque that he established in Medina - and to say to them, you can pray here."

Franklin Graham, son of evangelical leader Billy Graham, however, wrote on his Facebook page: "It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible."

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