As many as 50,000 American Muslims are expected to gather on Capitol Hill Friday for the religion's first-ever national prayer rally, organizers of the event say.
The rally is intended to be all about prayer, and no political speeches or signs will be allowed, said the event's organizer, Hassen Abdellah, president of the Dar-ul-Islam mosque in Elizabeth, N.J.
But at least one of the prominent speakers who will read from the Koran has drawn criticism in the past for statements he's made about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, as well as for saying that the American media are largely under "Zionist control."
In 2005, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, Sheik Ahmed Dewidar said the "suspicion towards anything Islamic" remained a burden on Muslim Americans and that "the media — most of which is under Zionist control — has helped to spread this perception.
"When [the media] see a bearded Muslim selling fast food on any street in any state, they put the camera lens in front of him and interview him as though he represents Islam. At the same time, they ignore every moderate Islamic voice, every serious, scientific Islamic model, and every expert religious scholar."
During another interview by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Web site, Dewidar hinted at an American government conspiracy in relation to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"Whether or not these events were planned, or pinned on the Muslims, or something else — [it] provided an opportunity for [the American government] to legislate dubious laws that restrict the growth and presence of Islam in the U.S.," Dewidar told ikhwanonline.com.
Dewidar also denounced then-President Bush's policy in the Middle East, claiming it was dictated by Israeli politician Natan Sharansky.
"This Jew has despicable goals, and we see their effects today in America's actions in the region, imposing its opinion and its outlook on democracy, education, and political involvement on our countries," Dewidar told the Web site.
According to a biography on islamoncapitolhill.com, the prayer rally's Web site, Dewidar was born and raised in Rashid, Egypt, and had memorized the Koran by age 12. Now an instructor at Manhattanville College in New York, he also established the Islamic Center in Manhattan, near the United Nations. Efforts to contact Dewidar were unsuccessful.
Despite the controversy surrounding Dewidar, Abdellah said politics will play no part in Friday's gathering outside the Capitol.
"This is just about prayer," he told FOXNews.com. "The purpose is Islamic unity, so we can display the beauty of Islam. We believe the group are going to be people who love and respect America, and we want to let America know that we're here and that we support the country.
"I know it's difficult for people to believe it could be that simple."
Another man scheduled to recite the Koran at Friday's rally is Sheik Muhammad Jebril. According to a biography, he is among the most prominent chanters of the Koran in the Muslim world. He has served as an instructor of the Koran at the University of Jordan and led a religious program on Jordanian television networks.
Contrary to reports, Jebril was not named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, which resulted in life sentences for five men found guilty of funneling $12 million from an Islamic charity to Hamas.
Abdellah, an attorney who has represented convicted and suspected terrorists, said President Obama's inaugural address and his subsequent speech in Egypt in June led him and a local imam, Abdul Malik, to form the idea of the prayer rally.
Any individuals who come to the gathering with the goal of disrupting the event will be left to Capitol Hill police, he said.
"If they come to the event with another agenda, then the Capitol police will take care of them," he said. "We're focusing on the positive, not the negative. The only question I would ask is, why would you come to disrupt prayer?"
"Buses are coming from everywhere," he said. "We love this country and we believe this country accommodates our religion and we're part of the fabric of this society."
But not all Muslims agree with Abdellah's approach. ISNA officials say the prayer gathering is misguided.
"We are not sure this is the best way to achieve the objective," Louay Safi, ISNA's director of communications, told FOXNews.com. "Our approach is really to encourage the community to become more active in society and the government by participating in interfaith and charitable activities. We fear that the gathering will not be understood by some Americans."
While ISNA will not participate in Friday's event, Safi said he respects the attendees' right to express themselves.
"We share the objective that Islam is not about politics but about being a good citizen and human being," he said. "But my concern is that the focus will be on political mobilization, and I'm not sure whether the objective will be articulated well."
Although "all shades of opinion and understandings" will likely be reflected at the gathering, Safi said he is not worried about the potential of extremist Muslims to join the prayer.
"Organizers have spread the word," he said. "But this may not really bring more understanding of Islam to the public."
Sofian Abdelaziz Zakkout, director of the American Muslim Association of North America, said her organization will participate in the "historical" event.
"It means a lot to me to come together and to pray in one voice," Zakkout wrote FOXNews.com. "Our communities around the nation are deeply hurt after all the events came against Islam and Muslims after the tragedy of 9/11. This gathering will bring pride to our children. This kind of gathering will send a strong message that the American Muslims since the beginning have been against terrorism."