DOVER, Del. >> An opening prayer reading from the Quran at the Delaware state Senate drew a sharp rebuke today from a Republican lawmaker, who said the Muslim holy book calls for the death of Americans.
Two representatives from the Masjid Isa Ibn-e-Maryam mosque in Newark were invited to the session to deliver the prayer.
Imam Tarek Ewis chanted a verse in Arabic before Naveed Baqir, executive director of the Delaware Council on Global and Muslim Affairs, read a prayer in English based on the Quranic verse.
Republican Sens. Dave Lawson of Marydel and Colin Bonini of Dover walked out of the chamber before the prayer was given.
Lawson then rose afterward to express his outrage.
“We heard from the Quran that advocates for our very demise. … I take great exception to that,” he said.
“I fought for this country not to be damned by someone that comes in here and prays to their God for our demise,” added Lawson, a Vietnam veteran. “I think that’s despicable.”
After the Senate finished its business, Democratic President Pro Tem David McBride of New Castle rose and took Lawson to task, saying he was personally offended that the Muslim guests would not feel welcomed.
“I have never been of the mind to censure the words of other members, but I also believe deeply that words have consequences,” McBride said. “To criticize the sacred prayer of another religion from the floor of the Senate strikes me as antithetical to everything we ought to stand for as lawmakers.”
“I am personally offended that our guests from the Muslim community and anyone else here in the chamber today would feel anything less than welcomed with opened arms,” McBride added. “And for our guests today to be branded as anti-American ones when our First Amendment of our country’s Constitution explicitly guarantees the freedom of religion is both ironic and deeply sad to me.”
The prayer, as recited in English, acknowledged that the U.S. is facing serious challenges, and that the world is in crisis.
“Give this assembly the courage that is necessary to lead our state towards a more just and peaceful state,” Baqir said. “Allow the members of this assembly to stand firm for justice as witnesses to you, even if it is against themselves or of their kin or anyone else without any discrimination or prejudice.
“Please allow them to control their hearts so that they can bring about and uphold the social justice in the laws that they make and so that they are always truthful witnesses. We acknowledge that you are the better protector of them, their kin, the rich and the poor, and that you are well acquainted with everything they do. Amen.”
Lawson was unapologetic afterward.
“You can’t be a good American and a good Muslim,” he said. “They don’t believe in our Constitution.”