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Muslims observe day of prayer in Washington

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Speaker calls U.S. "one of the best places in the world to live"
  • Prayer event sought to inspire Muslims and all Americans, one organizer says
  • Event drew protesters, criticism from Christian leader, "very nasty e-mails"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of Muslims gathered Friday on Capitol Hill for a day of prayer that organizers said was intended to inspire American Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Muslims bow in prayer Friday at the event, which was meant to inspire American Muslims and non-Muslims.

People traveled from all over the United States to attend the Capitol Hill event, organizer Abdul Malik said.

"America is not perfect," Abdul Malik, an organizer of the event called Islam on Capitol Hill, told the crowd.

"But I will say something it took me my whole adult life to come to: America is not perfect, but I want to tell the truth: It is one of the best places in the world to live."

Organizers had hoped that 50,000 people would show up for the Friday afternoon prayer session, which took place at the foot of the U.S. Capitol.

There were also anti-Muslim protesters near the event.

Earlier, Malik said, "This is not a protest, it is a day of prayer, of devotion, hoping that we can work ... for the betterment of the world community."

He added, "We can come together and work together for the common good."

He said that Muslims in the United States have a "unique responsibility" and that the event seeks to inspire Muslims and all Americans.

"America represents, still, a beacon of hope," he said.

Malik said conversations about the event began only a few months ago.

"It's amazing," he said. "The Web site has gotten more than 3 million hits already."

Friday's event was focused on a 1 p.m. prayer, and a reception and banquet were planned afterward.

Malik said attendees were traveling from all over the United States -- including Texas, Florida and Georgia -- as well as from other countries, such as Britain and Canada.

"The beautiful thing ... about this, is that we have a good representation of the uniqueness and beauty of what Islam stands for," he said.

Besides the protesters, the event drew other criticism. Malik said he had received some "very nasty e-mails."

And one Christian leader warned of a strategy to "Islamize" American society.

"It is important for Christians to understand that Friday's Muslim prayer initiative is part of a well-defined strategy to Islamize American society and replace the Bible with the Koran, the cross with the Islamic crescent and the church bells with the Athan [the Muslim call to prayer]," the Rev. Canon Julian Dobbs, leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America's Church and Islam Project, said in a written statement.

"The time has come for the American public to call Islam to account," he said.

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