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      American Muslims Gather on Capitol Hill

      Highly publicized event attracts several hundred instead of the anticipated 100,000.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 10/19/2010, 4:08 AM / Last Update: 10/19/2010, 5:06 AM

      The second annual "Islam on Capitol Hill" event was held last Friday. CNN reported that hundreds of Muslims turned out for the event, which was held in Washington and saw Muslim children touring the halls of Congress, hours of prayers and speeches on the Capitol lawn, and a banquet at a hotel off the National Mall.

      The number of attendees was relatively small considering that the event’s organizers had called for 100,000 people to come out and participate.

      The event was held as tensions are already high between Muslims and non-Muslims in the United States, in the wake of the plans to build an Islamic center which includes a mosque near Ground Zero in New York. Large protests have been held against the mosque by angry US citizens since the summer.

      The mosque has been endorsed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who spoke of religious liberty, ignoring issues of sensitivity towards victims' families, and even US President Barack Obama who said: “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.”

      However, it is not just the Ground Zero mosque which has caused an outrage among US citizens. Similar projects throughout the country have had a similar effect, and analysts have attributed this to growing concerns among US citizens that allowing Muslims the same religious freedom enjoyed by other Americans could threaten American values.

      Another possible reason cited for the growing hostility towards Islam is a fear by Americans of being overtaken by Islam, a concern which might be expressed by the flyer for the Islam on the Capitol event, which characterized the Jummah prayer (the Islamic prayer said on Fridays) on Capitol Hill as “The Return of Jesus.”

      Despite the flyer which appears to be trying to attract Christians to the event, organizer Abdul Malik told CNN that the event is aimed primarily at Muslim youth: “It's important for young Muslims to understand the beauty of this country - that this is a land of freedom, even though there may be people objecting to building a mosque in New York or threatening to burn the Quran.”

      Malik added that he plans to continue holding the Islam on Capitol Hill event each year.

      “Muslim children need to know that this is their country and that they have a responsibility to protect and honor it. I want to make sure they're not radicalized by any elements, especially on the internet. Hopefully, one day there will be many elected Muslim-American officials and they'll make a great contribution to this country.”

      Malik described his long-term goal as making sure the Muslim community |is integrated 100 percent into the rest of America and is no longer viewed as some foreign agent or enemy force.”

      Large Muslim populations characterize several European countries today, accompanied by a rise in anti-Semitism.