Mosque Controversy Skips Pentagon: Muslims Gather in Daily Prayer at 9/11 Crash Site

Services for Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Catholics, Protestants and Episcopalians.

August 17, 2010, 8:44 AM

Aug. 17, 2010 -- Amid flaring political debate about a proposed New York City mosque near Ground Zero, there has been little commotion about the Pentagon's chapel where Muslims can gather in daily prayer near where a hijacked jetliner struck the building Sept. 11, 2001.

Sometimes misidentified as the "Pentagon Mosque," the non-denominational Pentagon Memorial Chapel maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain's Office is where department employees who practice Islam can meet to pray.

Located at the site where the hijacked American Airlines flight 77 struck the Defense Department headquarters, the chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims of the 9/11 attack.

The 100-seat chapel is available to Pentagon employees of all faiths to come in prayer as they wish throughout the day. The Pentagon Chaplain's Office schedules weekly religious services in the chapel for Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Protestants and Episcopalians, as well as a daily Catholic Mass. Muslim worshippers can gather daily to offer prayers and can attend a Friday Prayer Service led by an Imam.

Army spokesman George Wright said he is unaware of any complaints about the Muslim services from either 9/11 families or anyone in the building. The Army serves as the executive agent for the Pentagon Chaplain's Office.

The Pentagon Chaplain's Office schedules the religious services because "the armed forces are dedicated to looking after all the needs of our servicemen and women, including their spiritual needs," Wright said.

The office is "very open and very accommodating to the religious needs of the employees here in the building," he added.

The Muslim services at the Pentagon chapel have led some politicians to label it, incorrectly, as a mosque.

Appearing on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., defended the right of the Islamic group seeking to build near Ground Zero by saying, "there is a mosque in the Pentagon, which is also hallowed ground. No one objects to that."

Nadler represents the congressional district where Ground Zero is located.

Pentagon Chapel Recognizes All

Dedicated in November 2002, after the reconstruction of the section of the building struck in the Sept. 11 attack, the Pentagon chapel honors the memory of the 184 victims who were killed there or were passengers aboard the hijacked jetliner.

Behind the chapel's altar is a lit stained-glass window, in the shape of the Pentagon, that bears the inscription, "United in Memory, September 11, 2001."

No religious icons or pictures are on display at the chapel. Religious symbols are brought in for religious services. A Torah, for example, housed in an ornate ark, is brought from behind curtains for use in the weekly Jewish service.

Because of the chapel's location at the impact point where the Pentagon was struck, there are various reminders nearby honoring the victims of 9/11.

Outside the chapel's double door is a small display honoring victims of the 9/11 attack.

Along the building's exterior below one of the chapel's stained glass windows is a dark charred block of limestone set against the lighter colored limestone used in the reconstruction of the façade. Inscribed "September 11, 2001," it is a reminder of the extensive fiery damage the building sustained in the attack.

Just beyond the chapel's stained glass windows lies the two-acre Pentagon 9/11 Memorial that individually honors each of the 184 victims of the attack on the Pentagon.

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