By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009
The Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring was empty Thursday night, but inside, the phone didn't stop ringing. Members of the mosque where Maj. Nidal M. Hasan had been a regular attendee and members of the media wanted to know about the place where the suspect in the shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., had prayed seven days a week, often in his Army fatigues.
Arshad Qureshi, chairman of the center's board of trustees, said he tried to answer every call to convey the message that the center stands for peace.
"We want to show there is a tiny portion of people who do these things, yet they get all the press. But our centers do many, many other things," Qureshi said. "We distribute food for the needy, contribute disaster relief and help the community."
The Silver Spring center was established in 1976. There were mosques in the area at the time, but the Muslim Community Center was one of the area's first community centers, its leaders said, offering several services in addition to daily prayers. More than 1,000 people attend Friday prayers at the center. During the Eid festivities, the high point of the year, about 5,000 flock to the mosque.
In addition to daily prayers and Sunday school, the center runs a medical clinic for the uninsured six days a week. The clinic is staffed with 30 doctors and 60 technicians, all volunteers.
"People know who we are and what we do for the community," Qureshi said, saying that's why the center has never been vandalized, even when other incidents have caused backlash against the Muslim community. "But the stereotype is there already, so when something like this happens, you worry, of course."
On Thursday night, just before the day's last call to prayer, the shooting was on the minds of many attendees, said the center's Imam, Mohamed Abdullahi.
"The brothers here have seen [Hasan's] face on the news, and they're all talking about him, trying to figure this out," Abdullahi said.
Members said Hasan had attended the Muslim Community Center for about five years before moving out of the area. He attended frequently for daily prayers but participated in almost none of the center's other activities or festivities.
"I can't say that people knew him very well, other than attending prayers," Qureshi said. "He was a very quiet and private person."
Staff writers Michelle Boorstein and Nelson Hernandez contributed to this report.