Continued from page 1

Mr. Mahoney, who is best known for his pro-life activism, said he’s been quietly reaching out to Muslim leaders for several years.

He was part of a six-member team of Christians who “laid hands” in prayer on Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during a July 2007 visit to Baghdad.

“Our whole purpose,” he said of Tuesday’s reception, “was to say Christians are not the enemies of Muslims and that the heart of Christ reaches out to all groups. We also want to celebrate the wonderful traditions of America that say no one - regardless of their faith - should be persecuted and harassed by the government.”

Mr. Mahoney, the Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council and Kristopher Keating of the Richmond-based Hillside Missions, joined the organizers of the Muslim prayer event as a way to counteract Christian opposition on the Internet.

Some groups, such as Advancing Native Missions, a Charlottesville group, are asking Christians to show up at the Mall and pray.

“While we do not question the constitutional right of these Muslim Americans to rally together at the Capitol, we do have concerns regarding the spiritual nature of this event,” said a statement on the group’s Web site,

Mr. Mahoney said he has received far more vociferous reactions.

“I was embarrassed by all the hate calls they say they’ve gotten from people who profess to be Christians,” he said of the organizers. “Even I’ve gotten about six,” he added, stopping to read a message on his cell phone.

“It says, ‘Please in the name of Jesus do not make any covenant with the Muslim world’ with 14 exclamation points,” he repeated.

“The American public and the church has lumped regular American Muslims and jihadists together, and that is a mistake,” he said.

Friday’s event will draw Muslims who want to show America and the world a different facet of their religion, Mr. Abdellah said.

“My phone is ringing every eight minutes from people calling from all over the country,” he said. “People are asking for directions, organizing buses. I’ve been told it will be much more than 50,000 people there.”