FORT POLK — Every Friday at 12:30 p.m., the Muslim community at Fort Polk gathers at Glory Chapel to share their faith at a weekly prayer meeting.

It cannot be called a “service,” as there is no Imam (religious leader), but that doesn’t stop Ed White, the lay group leader of the group, from practicing the faith.

“Muslim Soldiers and Family members attend the meetings, but anyone is welcome to come,” he said. “We are expecting (an increase in participants) now that the (3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division) is back from deployment.”

The prayer meetings began in December, but not many people know about them yet, according to White. “We want to make sure that rotational units also know about us so they can benefit from the meeting.”

Chap. (Maj.) Michael Lindsay, the sponsoring chaplain for the Muslim prayer meeting group, explained White’s leadership role.

“There is a clergy (ministers, chaplains, priests) and a laity,” said Lindsay. “The ‘lay group leader’ designation is used for volunteer religious leaders that are not ordained. They are not chaplains or officially recognized as ministers, but they lead services.”

Lindsay ensures the group has the resources and space they need to have their meetings. “We are working on getting head coverings, prayer rugs and a (suitable) floor space to worship,” said Lindsay. “My responsibility as the sponsoring chaplain is to see that they have the opportunity and place, and do the best we can to get needed supplies.”

A typical Muslim prayer meeting includes a call to prayer, sermon and group prayer, said White. “The way that we do prayer is that we all come together as one. We are a single unit — like the Army. That’s why we follow the Imam when he leads the prayer, and everybody does the same thing at the same time, almost like drill and ceremony. We follow a set pattern.”

Part of that pattern includes the time of day these meetings are held, which required special permission to accommodate the Fort Polk Muslim community.

“Our prayer time (12:30 p.m.) is actually a little earlier than the prescribed time, but we got special dispensation through a couple of sheiks to do ours a little earlier so our brothers (on post) can take part,” he said. “At this time of year, the time for prayer is usually 1:30 p.m.” Prayer times fluctuate and are determined by the Islamic calendar, which is based on moon cycles, where the Gregorian calendar is based on cycles of the sun, said White.

Non-Muslim guests that wish to attend a service are asked to stay quiet during the prayers, but are welcome to pray with them. Women are supposed to cover their heads, but there is some dispensation about that because the meeting is not an official service. “We can’t have expectations that cannot be met,” said White. “We want people to come and participate, without making it difficult. The whole point of Islam is that it’s not supposed to be difficult — it’s supposed to be easy so people will maintain their commitment.”

White said he encourages his fellow Muslims on post to attend the weekly prayer meeting, but he’d like the community to know that the meetings are open and available to everybody. “Anyone who would like to gain an understanding of what the religion really is about — not necessarily convert to it — is welcome to attend,” White said.

Services are not usually held on four-day weekends. Other Muslim services are held at the Islamic Center, which has a dedicated Imam, off post in Leesville.

For more information, the group has a Facebook page, www.facebook.com/FortPolkMuslimCommunity, which is also linked with the Fort Polk Chapel Facebook page. You can also call White at 531-1919.