CAIRO - Urging for a bigger role of Muslims in America and religious tolerance, hundreds of Muslims gathered for Juma`ah (Friday) prayers in Marshall Park in Charlotte on the sidelines of the Democratic National Convention amid hopes of extending bridges of understanding in their communities.
We must make the Constitution work for all Americans, Jibril Hough of Charlotte, spokesman for the event's sponsor, the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs, headquartered in Newark, NJ, told the Charlotte Observer.
We're not asking for anything more or anything less.
The prayer comes amid a series of events organized by American Muslims to discuss their rights in the US.
It coincides with Democrats annual convention held in September to choose their candidate in this year's presidential election.
The events, themed One Community, One Islam, One Voice, Answer The Call, was launched with the weekly Friday prayers.
The three days of events will also include a conference on Islamic issues, a banquet and a cultural festival.
The events will discuss anti-terror laws, which Muslims have taken their full brunt.
These laws include the Patriot Act, a law passed after the Sept. 11 attacks that expanded anti-terrorism surveillance.
Last year, US President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of controversial anti-terror powers under Patriot Act.
The law had drawn fire for granting the government too much power and infringing on individual liberties.
Muslims and Arabs have taken the brunt of the Patriot Act and other federal powers applied in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
New Jersey resident Abdul Razzaq, 60, who grew up in Kershaw, SC, and played football at Salisbury's Livingstone College, said he'd like to see a time when every Muslim paraded across the television screen is not portrayed to be a terrorist.
I don't even know a terrorist, he said.
We're very peaceful people. We're law-abiding, we vote, and we matter.
As several hundred Muslims gathered for prayers, members of a Christian group carried signs - Jesus is the Way and Islam is a Lie - and played Christian music close to the Muslim gathering.
We're glad they're (the Muslims) here, Rev. Phillip Flip Benham of Concord-based Operation Save America, an anti-abortion group, said.
If the devil is going to throw a party, it's imperative that the church of Jesus Christ show up.
The prayers' connection to the Democratic National Convention prompted a storm of criticism from conservative pundits and bloggers.
Benham was among those complaining the DNC had endorsed the Muslim event by promoting it on the DNC website.
Hough denied claims, repeated by Benham at the event, that the outdoor prayer service was endorsed by the DNC host committee.
We're nonpartisan, he said.
We're not seeking to endorse any candidates. We are seeking to endorse issues.
The Christian protests were upsetting for Muslim worshippers who said the intrusion was insulting.
You never see a Muslim at a Christian gathering trying to insult people, Jamil Abdur-Rahman, a member of the National Muslim Council for Justice who traveled to Charlotte from Red House, Va., said.
You never see us doing anything like that.
The main speaker at the event, Siraj Wahhaj, imam of an American Black Muslim mosque in Brooklyn, NY, encouraged fellow Muslims to participate in the political system to make America better.
So many people, they attack us because they don't know, Wahhaj, the first Muslim to give an invocation in the US House of Representatives, said.
If they knew how much we loved Jesus, they would be embarrassed.