White House, Congress Note Muslim Presence in U.S.

The AMC Report
American Muslim Council
Summer 1991

Within a period of three months, spanning the Muslim festivals from Eid al-Fitr to Eid al-Adha, both the White House and Congress undertook historical initiatives in acknowledging Islam before the American people.

Responding to a query from the American Muslim Council regarding the executive branch’s responsibility to encourage religious tolerance and parity for all Americans, President Bush consented to video tape a special message to the American people on the occasion of the Eid al Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) which the Muslims observed on June 23. This marked the first time in American history that a Chief Executive has given special recognition to a Muslim religious commemoration.

Following the President’s decision, Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D – WV) requested that the House of Representatives be granted the opportunity to hear an invocation (opening prayer) from an Islamic representative. Historically only the Christian and Jewish Clergy have been acknowledged in this way.

Shortly thereafter, Rev. James D. Ford, the House Chaplain extended an invitation to Imam Siraj Wahaj of Brooklyn, NY to give the invocation on June 25. According to House records this was the first time that such an invitation has been extended to a Muslim.

Imam Siraj Wahaj is resident Imam for Masjid al-Taqwah in Brooklyn, a member of the Council of Imams of New York, and member of the Board of the American Muslim Council. He attracted national attention recently for his leadership against drugs and crime in his borough.

The twin events reflect the changing nature of the dialogue between Islam, the Judeo-Christian society and the secular establishment. It also reflects the growing impact that Islam is bringing to bear on the moral and cultural growth of the country.

With respect to the dialogue, such initiatives indicate that despite the distortion and misinformation about Islam in the media, the American public has begun to recognize the contributions of Islam, not only in world history but to the positive moral climate in America.

For Muslims this also suggests that the need for greater involvement in the socio-political development of the country. In addressing the House, Imam Wahaj emphasized the Oneness of Allah and the unity of mankind.

Interweaving his comments with the opening Surah of the Quran, Al-Fatiha, he said, “Praise belongs to Thee who shaped us and colored is in the wombs of our mothers; colored us black and white, brown, red, and yellow. . . who made us into nations and tribes that we may know each other.” He asked Allah’s guidance upon the nation’s leaders.

Following the Imam’s invocation, scores of dignitaries attended a reception at the Capitol building, co-sponsored by Rep. Rahall and the AMC. Among those attending were several foreign ambassadors, including H.E. N. A. Shaikh of Pakistan, H.E. Al-Haji Z. M. Kazaure and Saad Baba of Nigeria, H.E. Abdulrahman Ramly of Indonesia, Abdellah Abdul Rahman Hasan of the UAE, H.E. Muhammad bin Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and Dr. Adbulbaki Keskin of Turkey.

Each of the ambassadors, speaking in turn, complimented the AMC’s initiatives, expressed gratitude to Rep. Rahall and his colleagues and stated their delight in “being a part of this historic occasion.”

Others attending included Neal Lendenmann and Jeff Steel of the National Association of Arab Americans; Natasha Ghoneim, Jamal Kheri, Fedah Dahdul, Hamdi Elrefai and Greg Nojin of the Arab Anti-Defamation Committee; and N. Abba Kano of the Voice of America.

Attendees also included Abdulalim Shabazz of the Muslim Political Action Committee, Salim Abdus-Salam of the Muslim for Better America PAC, Thelset Alberdia, Mowahid Shah, Ibrahim Al-Wazir, Abdulhamid al-Kibsi, Dr. Hassan Ibrahim Hazim and Muhammad Tajuddin.

AMC officials and staff included Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, treasurer of the board; Abdurahman Alamoudi, executive director; Issa Smith, deputy director; Imam G.N. Kashif, director congressional affairs; Fareed Nu’man, senior research analyst, Ruqiyyah Abdus-Salaam, director of public relations; and Jacquie Muhammad, administrative assistant.

Prayer Delivered by Imam Siraj Wahaj
Before the House of Representatives
June 25, 1991

In the Name of Allah (God), Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise belongs to Thee alone, O Allah, Lord and Creator of all the worlds. Praise belongs to Thee Who shaped us and colored us in the wombs of our mothers; colored us black and white, brown, red and yellow.

Praise belongs to Thee, Who created us from males and females and made us into nations and tribes that we may know each other.

Most Gracious, Most Merciful, all Knowing, all Wise, Just God, Master of the Day of Judgment, Thee alone do we worship and from Thee alone do we seek help.

Guide the leaders of this nation, who have been given a great responsibility in worldly affairs. Guide them and grant them righteousness and wisdom. Guide them on the straight path. The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy favors. The path of your inspired servants. The path of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Guide them and us not on the path of the disobedient ones who have earned Thy wrath and displeasure. Amen.

Special Videotaped Remarks by President Bush

It is my pleasure, on the day American Muslims celebrate the feast of sacrifice, to offer each and every one of you my heartfelt best wishes.  Today, millions of Muslims in America and around the world commemorate the absolute faith and unquestioning obedience of the prophet Abraham who was ready at God’s command to sacrifice even his own son. Abraham’s example inspires three great religions. As children of Abraham, American Muslims gather today to honor their ancient faith. As Americans, your celebration affirms this nation’s allegiance to religious freedom for all.

The notion of religious tolerance lies at the heart of the American ideal. Many of our founders came here because the land promised religious tolerance. And today in America, all people are free to believe, free to worship as their minds and hearts tell them they must.

On this day of great joy for members of the Muslim faith, I ask everyone to remember the millions of men and women who are persecuted for their beliefs, forced to suffer for their faith.

[By permission of the American Muslim Council.]