Dr. Mehmet Gormez's remarks came at a sermon in the newly built Diyanet Center of America which will be officially launched Saturday.

“My message to you is that you should continue to hold your head high, with honor and dignity, and don’t be defensive or apologetic for the horrible acts that have been committed overseas by criminals who claim affiliation with your faith,” Gormez told thousands of Muslims gathered at the mosque for Friday prayers.

Gormez was apparently sending a strong message to the anti-Muslim rhetoric orchestrated by some Republican presidential candidates in the wake of Daesh attacks in Paris and Brussels.

“We all know that all the crimes that are committed against humanity can never find any justification in Islam, nor can they find any basis in the Holy Quran, or the Sunnah of the prophet of mercy,” he added.

The top religious official also recommended Muslims not “deviate from the middle path of Islam,” which requires peace and understanding toward other will and beliefs.

He said that distorted ideologies propagated by terrorists has no place in the hearts and minds of pious Muslims.

“The region of this world that is the birthplace of the Abrahamic religions is now suffering from a severe hardship. The ideologies and the theologies that have ravaged the heart of that sacred land have no place in Islam and should be rejected by every Muslim,” he said.

More than one thousand people came to the Diyanet Center of America located in Maryland, some 21 kilometers (13 miles) from Washington DC, to listen to the sermon by Gormez before the Friday prayer.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, an official named Ibrahimu Adem said that he accompanied Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to attend the Nuclear Security Summit and wanted to visit the Diyanet Center for the prayer.

"The sermon was wonderful and rich and appropriate for today's world. The Imam [Gormez] talked about peace and Muslims' role in bringing peace," Adem said.

He said that he heard about the mosque from Nigerians living in Washington and wanted to see it.

"It will be an important place Inshallah to unite Muslims and non-Muslims also," he added.

Ridwan Ahmed, a Pakistani American who lives close to the Diyanet Center, was also fascinated by the sermon. "Professor Mehmet Gormez's sermon was very good, it was to the point," he said, noting that he touched on hot topics with the "true spiriutality of Islam.”

Ahmed also said that he is very happy to see the Diyanet Center as an architectural masterpiece built near his house.

"This is a great gift I would say from first Allah then President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and the people of Turkey," he added.

The complex features classic Ottoman architecture built on a 60,000 square-meter (64,600-square-foot) area. It includes traditional Turkish baths for men and women, swimming pools, a multi-purpose hall and an indoor sports complex.

The mosque at the center of the complex has two minarets, built on 879 square meters (9,461 square feet).

If one includes the courtyard, the place of worship is large enough for approximately 3,000 Muslims to pray at the same time.

During the sermon, Gormez said the center is going to serve as a bridge between communities in the U.S.

“This place that we are in right now is not just a masjid or a community center, but is also a sanctuary of comfort and growth for all human beings, Muslims or non-muslims in America,” he added.

Anadolu Agency