Muslim opening prayer at Iowa Statehouse raises concerns
Pilot Tribune By: Erin Ballou, Pilot Tribune Staff
The Iowa Legislature started just over a week ago and some people were upset before the first issue was every addressed.
When the session began, a Muslim Imam began the prayer in the Iowa Legislature. This is where the controversy begins.
The prayer asked of "Victory over those who disbelieve," and "Protection from the great Satan" among other things.
Pastor Steve Smith of the Evangelical Free Church in Albert City is among those concerned about the Muslim prayer. Rev. Smith admits that he doesn't know about all the levels of Muslim but knows that the Jihadists believe those in the U.S. are the great Satan.
Rev. Smith also wants to point out the mention of "victory over those who disbelieve." He feels "this is a request in the Iowa Legislature for God to grant the Muslims victory over every non-muslim. Not a request for salvation." Smith takes it as a gesture not of prayer but more as a political statement, especially with the wars that have been going on in the Middle East.
"I'm not concerned about a Muslim Imam opening the Legislature in prayer but it concerns me with the statements that were made. He interpreted this prayer from his understanding of Islam.
Here is the text of the opening prayer, as transcribed by Radio Iowa:
Imam Muhammad Khan of the Islamic Center of Des Moines spoke first in Arabic.
"I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful," Khan said in English. Khan made no specific mention of the war in Iraq or foreign affairs, but he called God the "master of the day of judgment" and asked for "victory over those who disbelieve."
"As we begin this new year...in a world with trials and tribulations, we ask you to open the hearts of our legislators and policy makers to make the right decisions for the people of Iowa," Khan said. "...We ask that you guide our legislators and give them the wisdom and knowledge to tackle the difficult problems that face us today in order to eliminate the senseless crimes on humanity. Help them, Lord, to solve the complicated problems in the State of Iowa so that we can be a model to the world."
Khan's prayer lasted about four minutes and he closed with a few words for legislators.
"On behalf of the Muslim community of Des Moines and Iowa, I wish you all the success in this year for making the right decisions for us," Khan said. Khan was the guest of State Representative Ako Abdul Samad of Des Moines, who is also a local Muslim leader.
Rev. Smith has urged others who may be concerned to contact their representative.
When asked about the prayer, Senator Steve Kettering replied in an e-mail that he had not heard the prayer, which did not take place in the Senate chambers.
"I cannot tell you what was said. I have received e-mail regarding this, but since it did not occur on the Senate side I do not have much information," Kettering said. " I should point out that the senate had a Catholic priest for their opening."
Representative Gary Worthan of Storm Lake said that he agrees with the concern being shown over the Muslim prayer.
He said that he has registered his concerns with the proper authorities.
As the father of two sons who have fought terrorism in the military, Worthan said the phrases mentioned earlier also jumped out at him and he said he shares concern for the same reasons as the constituents he is hearing from