By the invitation of a Virginia lawmaker, a controversial Muslim cleric delivered the opening prayer on Thursday at the start of the House of Delegates’ session.
About a dozen delegates did not attend the prayer of Johari Abdul-Malik.
“I’m going to be somewhere else saying the Lord’s Prayer,” Delegate John Cox (R-Ashland) told CBN News. “It’s just not something that I feel like I can condone as an individual.”
Concerns surrounding the prayer were not driven by the fact that it was a Muslim prayer but by the troubling associations the imam has.
Abdul-Malik is the outreach director at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, where two Sept. 11 hijackers briefly worshipped. He was not affiliated with the mosque at that time and has condemned terrorism but some Virginia lawmakers and citizens still had concerns.
A number of protesters stood outside the state capitol to oppose the imam’s appearance.
Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) invited Abdul-Malik to give the prayer in the House and said he has no regrets about it, according to The Washington Post.
“The imam is a peace-loving man,” he said.
“It’s certainly people’s right to participate or not to participate,” Ebbin told The Washington Post after the morning prayer. “They certainly missed a great prayer. I’m not going to judge my colleagues who chose not to participate.”