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Giving Islam a pass

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Listen. Do you hear it? Want to know what it is? It’s the sound of silence. Specifically, it’s the sound of liberal groups not protesting a prayer offered by a Muslim imam that opened a recent session of the Texas legislature.

Yusuf Kavakci of the Dallas Central Mosque was invited to open the senate session with prayer April 4. The imam’s appearance occurred on the Jewish holy day of Passover and just four days prior to the Christian observance of Easter.

Kavakci strode onto the dais in the Texas Senate and prayed. And it was not one of those watered-down, wishy-washy, weak non-sectarian prayers so favored by liberal jurists. No, Kavakci boldly voiced an Islamic prayer.

Prior to the prayer, the imam explained what was going to take place. “We will pray by reading from first chapter, opening chapter, Al-Fatiha, from holy Quran, followed by recitation, traditional way of recitation from holy Quran, with an addition.”

The content of the Kavakci’s prayer is as follows:

“In the name of god, Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. All praise is for Allah, our lord, the lord of the worlds, the compassionate, the merciful, master of the day of judgments. Oh, Allah, guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom you have favored, not of those who have earned your wrath or of those who have lost the way. Our lord, have mercy on us from yourself and guide us in our efforts, strivings and works.”

When Kavakci prayed from the Quran and invoked the name of Allah, he crossed the non-sectarian line.

For some time now liberal groups, led by the American Civil Liberties Union (ALCU) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, have maintained that prayer should not be offered at any government-sanctioned event lest it appear government is endorsing a particular religion.

However, in lieu of a ban on prayer, liberal groups have insisted that
prayer at a government event must be non-sectarian or neutral. Thus, reference to any god must be generic and non-specific. As a result, groups like the ACLU and Americans United have fought to forbid Christians from invoking Jesus’ name at government-sanctioned events.

When “Jesus’ name” was invoked by ministers at the 2001 and 2005 Presidential inaugurations, many liberal groups were beside themselves. However, in the three weeks since Kavakci prayed in the Texas Senate, liberal groups including the ALCU and AU have been strangely silent.

But Kavakci did more than just invoke the name of a specific deity. He asked Allah to “guide us to the straight path, the path of those you have favored,” and in the same breath he prayed, “not of those who have earned your wrath or of those who have lost the way.”

So just who are the “us” that are to be guided, the “those who have earned” Allah’s wrath and those “who have lost the way?” According to New York Times best-selling writer Robert Spencer, author of “The Truth About Muhammad,” Islamic commentators maintain that Muslims follow the straight path, Jews have earned Allah’s anger and Christians have been led astray.

Islamic apologist John Esposito, author of “Islam: The Straight Path,” agrees with Spencer’s interpretation of Islam. In fact, in my research concerning the issue I found no Muslim commentators that disagreed with Spencer and Esposito.

So, you have a Muslim imam invoking the name of Allah at a government-sanctioned event, and categorizing those who do not follow his faith as, at best, misguided and, at worst, condemned.

If the sectarian nature of the prayer did not get the attention of the ACLU and Americans United, you would think that the judgmental content of Kavakci’s words would at least have raised some liberal eyebrows. However, the imam’s prayer has mostly been ignored.

If you add the timing of the prayer, which took place during the Jewish observance of Passover and the Easter season for Christians, you would think that some liberal somewhere would at least question the appropriateness of the prayer. But, no, nary a protestation has been heard from the left.

Imagine a Christian pastor opening a legislative session during the Muslim observation of Ramadan by asking God to bless those who have accepted Christ, but not those who have rejected His death on the cross and marvelous resurrection. The ACLU and Americans United would have an apoplectic fit and the pastor would probably need around-the-clock police protection.

For the record, when it comes to the application of the religion clause in the First Amendment, I hold an accommodation view. I believe that voluntary prayer should be allowed at government-sanctioned events so long as no community’s religious groups are excluded from participation. And anyone should feel free to excuse themselves from participating in any prayer with which they disagree.

The only “church” the ACLU and Americans United wants separated from “the state” is the Christian one. Given their silence concerning the imam’s prayer at the Texas Senate, Muslim prayers are not only to be tolerated, but they apparently are welcome.
Kelly Boggs is editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message. His column appears each week in Baptist Press.

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