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At Pentagon, Muslim Service Members Answer the Call To Prayer

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The makeshift mosque is imbued with reminders of the evils done in the name of a radical, hijacked form of Islam, and of the Muslims who reject it.”>

Friday was an exceptionally busy day at the point where American Airlines Flight 77 struck the Pentagon virtually 15 years ago. There were more tour groups passing by, more households stepping inside the memorial attached to a chapel to touch the etched name a lost loved one and ceremonies nearby to remind the nation of a day its vowed to never forget.

But inside the Pentagon Memorial Chapel, which sits simply feet from where the plane struck the building, there also was a solemn act of defiance of those attacks, as Muslim service members gathered for Friday congregational prayers, or jumah.

Their answer to the Islamic call to prayer was also an answer to the idea that being an American patriot and Muslim are mutually exclusiveall at the site of an attack that sought to place that notion in the American psyche.

A soldier took off the shiny black shoes that complete his uniform and slipped them under a pew so that he could walk to the front and pray. A female Army officer sat in the back to place her fitted veil over her hair and part of her uniform. An airman placed his combat boot to the side and stood to pray next to a sailor, their ranks as visible as their faith.

In all, roughly 25 worshippers attended the service. There 5,896 Muslims in the U.S. military, according to DoD statistics, or simply 0.4 percent, even as Muslims make up about 1 percent of the overall population.

This year, more than most, the notion of being a Muslim and an American has come to the fore, particularly in July when the father of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who died while serving in Iraq in 2004, appeared at the Democratic National Convention and held up the pocket-sized copy of the U.S. Constitution that he keeps close to his heart, even asor perhaps becausehis son succumbed defending that document.

Samaan, one of several imams contracted by the Pentagon to lead the sermon, offered one Friday titled The Question of Evil. Was he speaking about the attacks that happened on this site where reference is choice that sermon subject? No, he said, his 15 -minute statements were a reminder that if we question everything, either good or bad, we will not understand the will of Allah.

Samaan then resulted different groups in prayer, calling out Allahu Akbar when it was time for the group to collectively bend forward, prostrate, and stand again.

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