Source: The Washington Post
Hundreds of Shiite Muslims turned a major annual spiritual ritual into an anti-terrorism rally Sunday, marching, singing and praying for hours from trendy Dupont Circle to the White House as tourists and brunch-goers rubbernecked.
Connecticut Avenue was a sea of black as Shiites mostly from the D.C. region waved banners with the name of their spiritual forefather, Imam Hussein, and pounded their chests with their fists simultaneously as an expression of mourning. His martyrdom 1,400 years ago is a major part of Shiite narrative and a defining event in the break between Shiite and Sunni Muslims, and is marked annually. A few days ago, more than 22 million Shiites and others visited the Iraqi city of Karbala in a pilgrimage to the place where Hussein died.
But this year the event twinned as a peace march. Muslims — including head-covered women, young children and hipsters with man buns on hoverboards — held signs condemning terrorism and the Islamic State and handed out hot chocolate and doughnuts in an effort to open conversations with passersby.
Some American Muslim groups and prominent U.S. Muslims have been making extra public efforts since the recent terrorism-related killings in San Bernardino, Calif., to speak against the Islamic State terrorist group, which is also known as ISIS, and radical Islamists.
“What’s happening now is we feel even more compelled to come out of our homes,” said Zehra Raza, 27, an electrical engineer from Alexandria, Va., who was at the rally with her husband.
The crowd was smaller than in past years, she and others said, because many Muslims were afraid of being harassed or targeted with violence. Such incidents have been on the rise. Many police officers were on hand, and there were no obvious protests against the rally.
When the crowd arrived at Lafayette Park across from the White House, tourists pulled out their cellphones. One group from Poland attempted in broken English to explain to a pair from Colombia what was going on.