A Dallas-area imam became the first Muslim cleric to offer the Texas Senate's daily prayer on Wednesday.
The visit raised the eyebrows of a conservative talk-show host turned senator who questioned the religious leader's background and the timing of his visit.
Sen. Dan Patrick stepped off the floor for Imam Yusuf Kavakci's prayer, in which he recited a passage from the Koran in Arabic and read an English translation.
"I surely believe that everyone should have the right to speak, but I didn't want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that," said Patrick, a freshman Republican from Houston.
Patrick later gave a short speech on the Senate floor in which he called Kavakci's prayer an "extraordinary moment" that underscores that America is a nation "so tolerant of others we bend over backwards to allow others to pray as they wish."
He pointed out that other countries would not do the same for Christians and Jews, who are observing Easter and Passover this week.
Kavakci said he can't understand why anyone would have a problem with his prayer or with the text he chose, which he said spoke generically about the mercy of God. He said he does not know Patrick or understand why he would criticize him.
"For my perspective as a Muslim, we are all brothers and sisters and children of Adam and Eve as we say," Kavakci said. "For us there is no problem really."