Picnic showcases mainstream Islam in Northern Virginia

One day after al-Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, Northern Virginia Muslims he once worshiped alongside gathered for an event that was both a community gathering and an effort to portray a version of Islam much different from the one he espoused.

The timing of Saturday’s annual Civic Picnic of the All Dulles Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, which attracted about 200 people, was purely coincidental. But in recent years, it has become an important component of the community’s outreach efforts.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, taught many American Muslims that they needed to become more engaged with their communities, said Wasim Entabi of Alexandria.

As Awlaki, once an imam at Falls Church’s Dar al-Hijrah mosque, rose to prominence in al-Qaeda, the picnic — which started in 2000 — became a kind of showcase for moderate, mainstream Islam in the Washington area. It attracts hundreds of Muslims, politicians and people of other faiths each year.

The society presented a $10,000 donation, raised by its members, for the Virginia Disaster Relief Fund to a representative of Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Saturday. The money was intended for Virginians whose homes were damaged in this year’s flooding.