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. (MORE)


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