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First Muslim Woman Leads Prayer in Wisconsin

First Muslim Woman Leads Prayer in Wisconsin
Janan Najeeb Photo-Journal Sentinel

CAIRO – In an effort to promote diversity, a Muslim woman was invited to offer prayers on the floor of Wisconsin assembly, becoming the first Muslim woman to do so in the US.

“I’m honoured and excited. I’m also a little bit surprised because, based on what the clerk has sent, it’s safe to say I’m the first Muslim to do so,” Janan Najeeb, a prominent member of Wisconsin’s Muslim community, told attendants, Journal Sentinel reported.

Being a longtime participant in local interfaith efforts, Najeeb was invited by Milwaukee Democratic Representative Mandela Barnes to offer the opening prayer.

Najeeb offered a general prayer as well as two verses from the Holy Qur’an that speak about the value of diversity.

They are roughly translated as: ”And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know.”

“We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”

She added that she hoped lawmakers “will realise that Muslims are part of the fabric of our society…and we are adding our story to the stories of the many communities that came before us and created this country.”

Barnes, a friend of Najeeb, said the invitation was planned to promote diversity in what is a predominantly white, Christian body.

He added that the event would present a more balanced picture of Muslims than that presented in much of the current political rhetoric.

“There is just so much for us to get over in terms of our fears. Muslims want the same things everyone else wants — to live peacefully, enjoy themselves and just live and breathe,” Barnes said.

Wisconsin Assembly Clerk Patrick Fuller’s office informed that they have had “everybody — the Dalai Lama, Indian tribes…” but longtime lawmakers said they could not recall ever hearing a Muslim prayer in the Legislature.

Muslims make up 1% of America’s 322 million population, according to Pew Research center.

Anti-Muslim sentiments have reached an all-time high after the rise of the so-called Islamic State, formerly known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Moreover, the Republican presidential candidates, such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, have added to increasing anti-Muslim sentiments.

Trump’s views on immigration have sparked controversy nationwide, especially his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the US.

Governor Scott Walker also drew outrage from Muslims and interfaith leaders when he declared during his 2015 presidential campaign that there are only a “handful of reasonable and moderate followers of Islam.”

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