When the leader of the Islamic Association of North Texas stepped into the well of the Texas Senate to deliver the morning invocation Wednesday, Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston left his place on the chamber floor because he did not want it to appear that he endorsed the Dallas-area imam’s message.

“It’s important that we are tolerant as a people, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse all faiths,” Patrick, a first-term Republican and the host of a conservative talk-radio show, told reporters afterward. “I was not opposed to his speaking; I just wasn’t endorsing [the prayer].”

Imam Yusuf Kavakci, the resident Islamic scholar for the Dallas Central Mosque in Richardson, was invited to deliver the morning invocation by Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, after a constituent recommended that he speak. Shapiro, one of two Jewish state senators, said she was impressed by Kavakci’s membership on the Richland Community College’s Peace Institute advisory board and the religious advisory boards for the Dallas and Richardson school districts.

The Senate and House begin each floor session with a prayer, and those selected to deliver it are customarily given wide latitude to say what they wish. Some have invoked Jesus or Lord or God.

Kavakci, a native of Turkey, deliver a prayer that said in part: “All praise is for Allah. You alone we worship and you alone we call on for help.” He ended with a musical chant.

The secretary of the Senate’s office could not recall an Islamic cleric delivering the invocation during any floor session in the past six years.

Shapiro said that when murmurs arose that some might oppose an Islamic cleric delivering the opening prayer, she was assured that 28 of her 30 Senate colleagues welcomed the opportunity to invite the imam.


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