As we reported last week, students training for diplomatic careers at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute spent Sunday afternoon at Virginia's Dar al-Hijrah mosque. Despite its long history of ties to terrorists and radicals, the students went to learn about Muslim attitudes toward America.
As it turns out, the mosque played host to other outsiders last weekend. This time, the cops were called. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Asra Nomani led a group of women to "the 9/11 mosque" to see what would happen if women tried to pray alongside men.
Both sides filed complaints. The mosque accused Nomani and her six companions of trespassing, while Nomani filed an assault claim against Imam Shaker El-Sayed. In a column published by the Daily Beast, Nomani describes what happened.
Their entrance was greeted by an angry man shouting "Get out of here!" as he charged at them, before another man held him back:
"The prayers complete, men surrounded the women in our group, some of us still sitting on the carpet. 'Get up! Get up!' they shouted. Elsayed walked by, charging us with 'fitna,' a loaded word in Muslim communities that refers to people who cause conflict. It can be grounds for killing another Muslim. A member of the congregation responded, 'Go! Go! Go! You are not allowed here!'
Elsayed then told the men, 'This is what we talked about in the khutbah (sermon) yesterday … They are among those people aligned with Satan and want to influence 1 billion Muslims.' We knew how significant that statement could be. We considered it a verbal threat, giving men grounds by which to assault us. In March 2010, a Saudi cleric said it was acceptable to kill Muslims—like us—who accept gender mixing."
In addition to the police involvement, Nomani planned to file a complaint with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR officials are close with Dar al Hijrah's leadership, so the response may be interesting to watch.
The campaign is rooted in Nomani's belief the practice is "part of a broader, problematic interpretation of Islam that I believe often incites violence against civilians, suicide bombings, and terrorism." Her concerns over growing radicalism her home mosque in West Virginia, and the start of her campaign to end gender segregation in prayer, were chronicled in a documentary called "The Mosque in Morgantown."