ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (May 10, 2011) – ICNA was featured on Comedy Central’s prime time show The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last week. They covered cooperation between the Islamic center run by ICNA and the Aldersgate United Methodist Church, both in Alexandria, VA.
ICNA Alexandria Mosque located near Route 1 has been in operation for several years. Last year, the community decided to construct a new mosque on the same property to accommodate the growing Muslim population. In order to begin construction, the older property, which was very small, had to be demolished.
The construction started in summer of 2010 and the mosque administration rented a small place for daily prayers; they found it difficult, however, to rent a hall for Friday prayers. They approached the Aldersgate United Methodist Church and spoke with the Pastor Dr. Rev. Dennis Perry, who immediately offered the church’s multipurpose hall for Muslim prayers services.
In February of this year, FOX News approached the church, asking to record Muslim Friday prayers. The church administration in turn approached ICNA and, after receiving the OK from ICNA Vice President Naeem Baig, FOX News recorded and later aired the Friday prayer on FOX and Friends. The crew asked Mike Huckabee for his opinion on Muslims praying at the church; he responded saying, “As much as I respect the autonomy of each local church, you just wonder, what are they thinking? If the purpose of a church is to push forward the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then you have a Muslim group that says that Jesus Christ and all the people that follow him are a bunch of infidels who should be essentially obliterated, I have a hard time understanding that.” He further said, “Should the church be rented out to show adult movies on the weekend?” The story garnered 3,000 comments online, many enraged, and unleashed an assault of angry mail and phone calls to Aldersgate’s pastors, according the United Methodist Reporter.
In March, Reverend Perry and Naeem Baig were contacted by The Daily Show regarding the controversy created by FOX and Friends and Mike Huckabee. On April 1st, the crew from The Daily Show came and recorded prayers, and, after prayers, John Oliver interviewed Reverend Perry and Naeem Baig.
Rev. Dennis Perry and his assistant, Rev. Jason Micheli, have come under fire from some parishioners for the decision. But Rev. Perry said “I think it’s a step in the right direction. You’ve got to build peace whenever you get the chance. Instead of seeing Muslims as competitors, we need to work together for a common purpose.” The Muslims who offer Friday prayers at Aldersgate have also invited Christians to their mosque.