LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nothing offensive about Muslim prayer in Senate

 

In the New Testament, in Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus is credited with summarizing the laws of God. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

It was reported in the DSN on April 6 that, as an Islamic prayer was being read in Arabic and English, [state] Senators Bonini and Lawson walked out in protest. [“Senators object to reading of Muslim prayer”] I find this a disgraceful act verging on bigotry. Thanks to journalist Matt Bittle of the DSN, I obtained the English translation of the Arabic-language prayer offered by Imam Ewis, with the English translation read by Dr. Naveed Baquir. Both represented Tarbiyah Mosque in Newark. The English translation of the prayer is copied here:

Prayer: “O God — We acknowledge that our country is facing serious challenges, and that our world is in crisis. Give this assembly the courage that is necessary to lead our state towards a more just and peaceful state. Allow the members of this assembly to stand firm for Justice as witnesses to you, even if it is against themselves or of their kin or anyone else, without any discrimination. Please allow them to control their hearts so that they can bring about and uphold social justice in the laws that they make and so that they are always truthful witnesses. We acknowledge that you are the better protector of them, their kin, the rich and the poor, and that you are well acquainted with everything they do — Ameen.”

Reading this prayer, I find nothing offensive to any religion in it. It is a prayer that might be offered in a church, synagogue, or open field. I have read a bit about Islam and its several sects, and find parallels in Judaism and Christianity. The Quran, the Torah and Tanakh, and the Christian Bible teach believers how to worship God by following rules that promote fairness, acceptance and peace. Despite this overall profession of peace in these major religions, some groups from each have used these texts to promote violence against “others.”

After the Hebrews fled Egypt, they conquered several peoples in order to establish a state centered in Jerusalem. Today, Israelis are fighting Palestinians to maintain the State of Israel created in 1947, despite hundreds of years of Palestinian occupation. Muslims and others, some historically referred to as “the Moors,” controlled Spain and southern Europe beginning in AD 711 through 1492.They were tolerant of the conquered Christians and Jews and allowed them to worship freely. However, today, ISIS, a tiny terroristic sect, is acting contrary to the Quran due to its warped interpretation. Spanish Catholics, after expelling the Moors, initiated the Spanish Inquisition that terrorized, tortured, and killed in order to establish and purify a state religion. The Roman Catholic Church tacitly supported the Nazis’ racial cleansing of World War II by not condemning it and refusing assistance to refugees. Today, there are alleged Christians who defile “other” places of worship and, like the KKK, espouse violence against “the others.” None of these three major religions is “free from sin.”

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution contains the “anti-establishment” clause prohibiting the government from establishing a state religion and prohibiting it from interfering in the right of individuals to worship (or not) freely. It is conceivable that the founders realized that a state religion could lead to persecutions and worse. By walking out at the start of the Islamic prayer, Sens. Bonini and Lawson denied the right of peaceful Muslims to worship freely. Sen. Lawson’s “blast” against the prayer demonstrates his ignorance and intolerance of mainstream Islam.

The Quran does not advocate for “our” or anyone’s demise, any more than does the Torah or the Bible. It is apparent to me that these two senators left before the reading of the prayer that advocates for justice, tolerance, peace, and trust in God as protector of all. While I appreciate Sen. Lawson’s service to our country, his actions and words demonstrate his belief that all should worship exactly he does despite the intent of the First Amendment.

I wish to thank Mr. Ricky Shehorn for his letter pointing out the hypocrisy of these two senators. [“Hypocritical for senators to oppose Muslim prayer,” April 13] His was a powerful refutation of their attitude, action, and statements. They seem not to follow Jesus’ summary in Matthew 22. As a consequence of these senators’ actions, perhaps all prayer should be removed from the Legislature’s procedures.

Alan P. Gaddis

Dover

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