Earlier tonight, a legislator with sons who’ve served eight combat missions in the Middle East publicly voiced his frustration with the opening day prayer in the Iowa House. Representative Gary Worthan, a Republican from Storm Lake, told his colleagues in the House that he was offended when the Muslim Imam prayed for "victory over those who disbelieve."
"The line has to be drawn and when that one phrase, victory over the unbelievers, was uttered here — we all know that to be the battle cry, the call to arms of the jihadists of the world," Worthan said. "And that struck me right in the heart that morning…I didn’t know how to react so I did not. I sat on my feelings."
Worthan’s sons have served a total of 48 months in combat in the Middle East and according to Worthan both were "angered" when they heard about the Imam’s prayer.
Worthan’s comments came after Representative Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines who invited the Imam to the statehouse, stood on the House floor to defend the Imam’s reference to "those who disbelieve."
"That was not said toward Christians. When we talk about disbelievers, we talk about the Sadam Husseins. We talk about the bin Ladens. We talk about the Timothy McVeighs. We talk about those who take life or do things that are against one another, that they don’t have that belief," Abul-Samad said. "…We are each other’s brothers. We are each others’ sisters."
Abdul-Samad appealed for tolerance and offered to answer any questions about the Muslim faith that may have been raised by the prayer. "Do you think as your colleague I would allow someone at the time to disrespect you?" Abdul-Samad asked. "I would not allow that. I would have stopped it on the spot because that is the way I am taught."
Worthan told Abdul-Samad that tolerance "was a two-way street." "Representative Adbul-Samad you and I have never had a conversation, I don’t believe. We don’t serve on any of the same committees," Worthan said. "…I’ll reiterate what you said: everything’s about perception. It’s about perception."
It was Imam Muhammad Khan of the Islamic Center of Des Moines who delivered the opening day prayer in the Iowa House which has spawned the controversy. "I seek refuge in God against the accursed Satan in the name of God, most gracious, most merciful," Khan said in English at the beginning of his prayer. Khan called God the "master of the day of judgment" and asked for "victory over those who disbelieve."
Each day the Iowa House and Senate open with a prayer, often delivered by a cleric who is the guest of a legislator. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants says there’s no move afoot to end the long-standing practice of praying to start the day. Rants says having watched the legislative process up close, "We are all in need of a little prayer."