NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk Naval Base is home to the U.S. military's first mosque.
The Masjid al Da'wah, which opened a year ago, is a small space in a building that also houses a synagogue and two chapels. For the Navy's Muslims, it's a recognition of Islam's growing presence in the military and an affirmation that they can fulfill duties to both God and country.
"People are very, very proud of this room," said Lt. Malak Ibn Noel, the mosque's imam, or religious leader, and the first Muslim chaplain in Navy history.
The Navy has 725 enlisted Muslims, public affairs officer Paula Keicer said. It does not keep a count of Muslim officers. Most commanders allow Muslims to attend 1 p.m. prayer services on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath, Noel said.
Attendance varies from seven to 50. On a recent Friday, the faithful included sailors who have emigrated from Ethiopia, Ghana, Guyana and the Middle East.
"The military wants people to know they support all religions," said Lt. j.g. Tauseef Badar, an industrial hygiene officer. "The military has been very understanding."