Hundreds of Muslims gather in Marshall Park for prayers

by: Mark Becker Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

About 200 Muslims gathered in Charlotte's Marshall Park Friday afternoon for special prayers just days before the Democratic National Convention.

Organizers had hoped to have thousands of people attend the Jumah, or Friday Prayer, to hear a message of tolerance and religious unity.

"So many people attack us, because they don't know," said Imam Siraj Wahhaj, a cleric from New York, in his message to the crowd.

The message, organizers said, was not political, but about the role of Muslims in America and about religious tolerance.

"We are human beings. Christians make mistakes.  Muslims make mistakes," Imam Wahhaj said.

The gathering brought a handful of Christian evangelicals with signs and Christian music that at one point threatened to drown out the prayers.

Police used a sound meter and asked the group to turn down the music so it would not violate the city's noise ordinance, and they did the same with the Jumah's loudspeaker system.

Officers said it worked and police were pleased to say there were no surprises.

"Everything's very peaceful. No issues, no problems at all," said Capt. Chuck Henson.                  

If they were disappointed by the turnout, organizers chose to focus on the positive.

"Numbers are not always important as the message...that Muslims continue to be engaged," said Jibril Hough, spokesman for the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs.