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'My heart was pulsating with joy'

Imam to Lead Prayer for First Time at Oklahoma Capitol

The senior imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City has been invited to pray at State Capitol, making history in the south central state.

Imad Enchassi recently got an invitation from Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, to give the morning invocation for the Senate on March 29 and 30, The Oklahoman reported.

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The invitation comes four years after he was denied entry to a similar program in the state House of Representatives in defense of his right.

“I had mixed feelings in the sense that it was deja vu. It wasn’t long ago that I was asked to serve as a chaplain and my application was denied. It was a big embarrassment,” he said.

“At the same time, my heart was pulsating with joy that we go ahead and went over this hurdle and they want me back.”

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The imam said he made sure Hicks’ application was approved before he accepted the invitation, to avoid a similar heartbreak.

“I did not want to go through another heartbreak, neither did I want my state to go through another ordeal with yet another Muslim clergy being denied prayer at the state Capitol,” he said.

For her part, Hicks said she didn’t know about the prior rejection of Enchassi by the House chaplaincy program. 

“I was completely unaware of that history,” she said. “Ultimately, I just know that he is a strong faith leader in our community and I wanted to make sure that he had an opportunity to address the Senate.”

Encouraging Diversity

The Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said she was pleased to hear that Hicks had invited the Muslim leader to pray. 

“It is wonderful that the Oklahoma Senate recognizes and affirms that not all Oklahomans are of the Christian faith, and has offered the opportunity for a sensational faith leader in our state to open them in prayer,” she said.

“Progress in our state looks like love, awareness and affirmation of all Oklahomans, and I am thrilled that four years after Dr. Enchassi was denied this opportunity so cruelly, he is able to do what he does best, lead us all in loving prayer.” 

Dr. Enchassi is not the first American Muslim leader to lead prayers on a national level.

Debbie Almontaser made history last January as the first Muslim American woman to offer a prayer at the traditional presidential inauguration service.

Leading American Muslim scholar imam Omar Suleiman offered prayers in Congress in May, 2019.

Imam Abdullah Antepli, Duke’s chief representative of Muslim affairs, also delivered the opening prayer for the US House of Representatives in Washington, DC, in September 2017.