The U.S. Capitol is in for a first-of-its-kind gathering next week. The Muslims’ faithful are gathering in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Sept. 25.

Thousands are expected to meet to pray for the “Soul of America.” “This not a protest,” said Hassen Abellah of the Dar-ul-Islam mosque of Elizabeth, N.J. He also assured the press that it will not include political speeches or placards. That alone could made the trip worthwhile.

It is to be a time of prayer for the nation. We’re Americans, Hassen Abellah said, “We need to change the face of Islam so people don’t feel every Muslim believes America is ‘the great Satan,’ because we love America.”

There have been many prayer vigils and rousing sermons for America on the steps of the Capitol, dating back to George W. Truett’s sermon in the 1920s, the veterans of World War I’s march of the 1930s, war rallies of the 1940s, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s rousing speech of the 1960s, to the Muslim Nation men’s march of the 1990s. Many groups have gone there to protest some movement or law, but for the Islamic community and the nation this is a historic first.

Back in the summer a permit was granted by the U.S. Capitol Police for a gathering by the West Front of the Capitol Sept. 25. Abdellah hopes for 50,000 to attend from mosques from around the country. The Religious News Services reported that non-Muslims were welcome.

At his inauguration last January, President Obama offered a hand and not a fist to peoples of the world. Now the American Islam-ic world wants to open their hand and shake it.

This kind of talk is a far cry from the “crusade” George W. Bush launched against Islam in 2002. The world is not in the middle of a religious war, though there are those of such persuasion. History is filled with “the only true religious” fighting “the evil wrong religious groups.” Any religion that has a corner on God and what God is doing would be wise and prudent to give the idea some thoughtful prayer for our ways are not God’s ways and His ways are not ours.

Remember those huge crusades (no longer called that) Billy Graham held in city after city. There were few if any voices trying to stop him or waving placards of disagreement with his preaching. I just pray Christians of all sorts, shades and sizes will not make fools of themselves in front of the Capitol next week.

America has a great opportunity and responsibility to show the world that real democracy includes all citizens of all faiths, colors and opinions. Christianity’s sects need to respect the faith of others. The scene has been changing for some years, and American churches are finally seeing the need to adjust to being a minority faith.

Once upon a time, some believed Nero was the Anti-Christ. Down through the centuries that title has been bestowed on Genghis Khan, Abraham Lincoln, Stalin, Hitler, the Common Market, and according to Hal Lindsey’s book, “The Late Great Planet Earth,” Communism. Followers of the Christ were certain in every age they were correct. None were.

With Communism no longer the number one Anti-Christ, the mantle has fallen on Islam. Check the number of books, most by fundamentalist preachers, on the danger and evil of Islam. Nearly every televangelist has one for sale last time I checked.

(The Anti-Christ is not some person or authority, but simply anyone of any era that does not believe Jesus was the Jewish Christ.)

“This is not about personalities,” Abdellah said. “We don’t want personalities involved. The personality for this event is the Prophet Muhammad.”

Aly A. Aziz, president of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey, which is helping to organize the event, said too many Americans automatically associate Islam with terrorism, and that the event is a way to “expose Americans … to how the Muslims pray.”

“It’s historical,” said Shaksoor Msustafa of Newark, adding that in his opinion, the mere granting of permission to hold the event reflects a dramatic post-9/11 change in how many Americans view Muslims.

“Yesterday I was viewed as a terrorist,” he said, “and today I’ve been given a permit on Capitol Hill to come and pray in a spirit of unity.”

(Thanks to the Web site and to Jeff Diamant of The Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., for the shoe leather used in digging up the facts for today’s column.)

Britt Towery is a Brownwood native who now lives in San Angelo. Comments can be directed to the newspaper’s Web site or his e-mail at bet@