The Lead

Muslim lawmaker calls for unity one day after Pa. House member delivers ‘Islamophobic’ prayer

By: - March 26, 2019 11:35 am

Rep. Jason Dawkins

A Muslim lawmaker in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly called for unity one day after a fellow House member delivered a prayer decried as Islamophobic.

Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, said Tuesday he’d been hesitant to offer the House’s “morning inspiration” in the past because of how inspiring other members had been.

“I hope I’m able to inspire folks today. I hope we’re able to unify each other through our actions and our words,” Dawkins said. “Because I do believe words alone does not predict beliefs. I believe your actions is what predicts belief. As an American Muslim of this chamber, I’ve always carried myself as an example of what it looks like to be a Muslim. I wanted folks to see that from the actual actions of me and not the words I say out of my mouth.”

Dawkins then read a translation of the first chapter of the Quran, Al-Fatiha — a prayer for guidance.

On Monday, freshman Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, delivered the House prayer shortly before Movita Johnson-Harrell — the Legislature’s first female Muslim lawmaker — was sworn in.

Over two minutes, Borowicz called Jesus “our only hope” and willed “every knee” to bow to God. She also thanked God for President Donald Trump who “stands besides Israel.”

The prayer was met with swift condemnation, with the Philadelphia chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations calling it “mean-spirited, Islamophobic, anti-semitic, and xenophobic.”

House Democratic Whip Jordan Harris of Philadelphia said Borowicz’s prayer “could be considered a gross attempt to intimidate, demean, and degrade a Muslim state representative in the presence of her family, friends, and guests.”

Johnson-Harrell herself told the Capital-Star the prayer “blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders.”

On the House floor Monday, Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, asked members to “craft a prayer that is respectful of all religious belief.”

Borowicz told the PLS Reporter she would not apologize.

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Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Associate Editor Sarah Anne Hughes covers the governor and Pennsylvania's agencies. Before joining the Capital-Star, she was the state capitol reporter for Billy Penn and The Incline, and a 2018 corps member for Report for America. She was previously managing editor of Washington City Paper, editor-in-chief of DCist, and a national blogger for The Washington Post.