Muslims already pray daily at Pentagon's 9/11 crash site

WASHINGTON - While Americans are bitterly debating the proposed building of a mosque near New York's Ground Zero, Muslims have been praying for years less than 80 feet from where another hijacked jetliner struck.

The Pentagon chapel is part of a memorial to the 184 people killed in 2001 when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the west side of the Pentagon and plowed through three of the building's five office rings.

As part of its massive renovation, the Pentagon opened the nondenominational chapel in 2002. The chapel hosts a daily prayer group and weekly worship service for Muslims and provides similar services for Jews, Hindus, Mormons, Protestants, Catholics and Episcopalians.

Pentagon officials say that no one in the military or the families of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has ever protested.

They describe the 80-seat chapel as a peaceful place where some 300 to 400 Pentagon employees come to pray each week.

The goal of the Pentagon chaplain office, which runs the chapel, is to "provide assistance and support for the religious, spiritual and morale needs of all service members and employees," said Army spokesman George Wright.

A proposal to build an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in New York has prompted angry protests by victims of the 2001 attacks, which were done in the name of Islam. A majority of New Yorkers say they are opposed to the plan.

Wright said Muslim employees can gather for a daily prayer service Monday through Thursday, and attend a Friday worship service run by an imam from a local mosque.

Two in-house Army chaplains run the chapel, neither of which are Muslim.


Pelosi's view: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday said Muslim leaders have the right to build a proposed Islamic center, including a mosque, two blocks from the World Trade Center site and that the decision should be made by local leaders. But she says there should be transparency on who is paying for the $100 million project, as well as who is funding the fervent opposition to the plan.

Imam's fees: U.S. taxpayers will pay the imam behind plans for a mosque near the Manhattan site of the Sept. 11 attacks $3,000 in fees for a three-nation outreach trip to the Middle East that will cost roughly $16,000, the State Department said Wednesday. The department said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will get a daily $200 honorarium for the 15-day tour to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which is intended to promote religious tolerance.