Thursday, September 28, 2006

Muslim Prayer Center in Quantico

While reading the base paper recently, I saw that the regular "Chaplain's Corner" was about fasting as a form of worship, written by a Muslim chaplain. I did a little research on the base website, and learned that we have a Muslim prayer center. Here's what the paper had to say about its opening:

The prayer center is the first of its kind to be established aboard a Marine Corps base. The center serves to express the Marine Corps’ recognition of diversity among service members and the commitment to provide continued support to all Marines regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or gender.

The ceremony for the center, located in building 3043 on Catlin Avenue, attracted local as well as international interest, to include media from foreign agencies like Al Jazeera and the Egyptian Press Agency.

Special guest speakers were Rear Adm. Louis Iasiello, the Chief of Navy Chaplains; Gen. Michael Hagee, the Commandant of the Marine Corps; and Gordon England, the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

The ceremony began with a recitation from the Qur’an by Navy Lt. Abuhena Saifulislam, Quantico’s Muslim chaplain, first in Arabic and then translated into English. Navy Capt. David Kloak, deputy chaplain of the Marine Corps, gave the invocation which was followed by the colors presentation and playing of the national anthem.

After an introduction from Brig. Gen. Thomas Conant, director of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Capabilities Development Directorate, the guest speakers were each given a chance to talk about the prayer center.

“Prayer is an icon of religious respect,” Iasiello said. “Today, at Quantico, religious respect takes the form of a center.”

When it was England’s turn to speak, he told the audience that Muslim Americans have been serving in the armed forced since World War I. He then pointed out several Muslim veterans still alive today and present at the ceremony representing World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam and other operations.

“People come to America for freedom and liberty,” England said. “And religion is just one of those freedoms.”

After the speakers’ remarks, Hagee and England unveiled the dedication plaque on the building. The plaque has Arabic writing which is translated below as, “In the name of God, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful,” a statement from the Qur’an.

The center was created to provide Muslim military personnel, family members and international military officers with a suitable place to conduct religious services.

According to Quantico’s plans, this interim facility will serve as the prayer center until an extension is built on the Marine Memorial Chapel. The new extension will be named the Religious Activities and Family Support Center and will contain a Muslim prayer room.

I haven't seen any evidence of evangelical activity around here, other than my conversations with a former co-worker.

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