Cleric's Prayer Includes Phrase 'Victory Over Disbelievers'
State lawmakers are bickering over a Muslim cleric's opening day prayer in this year's legislative session.
Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Muslim, had invited the cleric last month to give the prayer, which included the phrase, "victory over disbelievers."
The comment has created an uproar in conservative talk radio circles and among some lawmakers.
Rep. Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said he is disturbed by the incident, saying the prayer was a verbal attack on other religions. He said he called for more tolerance.
Abdul-Samad conceded that many lawmakers have been getting calls from people criticizing the prayer. Still, he said he sees nothing wrong with the cleric's words.
Muslim prayer at Legislature challenged
By Jason Clayworth
A Muslim imam's opening-day prayer at the Legislature has sparked controversy over statements he made that some say are similar to terrorists' calls to harm Americans.
But Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad said the imam's words were being taken out of context. The Des Moines Democrat asked his colleagues on the House floor for tolerance, compassion and a renewed understanding of other cultures.
"We're as much against those who use religion to harm people as anybody else is," said Abdul-Samad, a member of the Islamic Center of Des Moines. "I didn't want individuals who were pushing this to use this as a distraction for all of us working together."
The prayer, from Imam Mohamad Khan of the Islamic Center, was partly in Arabic.
The statements causing the controversy include: "I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan," and "You are the pardoner, supporter and protector; and give us victory over those that disbelieve."
Legislators at the time did not say anything publicly about the Jan. 14 prayer. But some lawmakers have received e-mails and phone calls from people who say the statements are similar to those of jihadists who believe the United States is the "great Satan."
Some lawmakers gave Abdul-Samad a standing ovation after he spoke, but others asked to speak about the issue. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Des Moines Democrat, quickly shut down the public debate by calling for a conference with at least four legislators who indicated they wanted to speak about the issue.
Rep. Gary Worthan, a Storm Lake Republican, asked lawmakers to be sensitive to people's concerns about the prayer.
"I'm just asking for the tolerance to go both ways," Worthan said. "We are tolerant of their views.
1) Cleric's Prayer Includes Phrase 'Victory Over Disbelievers'
2) Muslim prayer at Legislature challenged