Muslim leader's prayer invitation sparks fuss in North Dakota.


A Muslim cleric scheduled to deliver a prayer before the North Dakota House of Representatives had his invitation rescinded after some lawmakers expressed objections to a non-Christian giving a prayer on Ash Wednesday.

The invocation was to be given Feb. 18 by Dr. Nadim Koleilat, a urology transplant surgeon and president of the Bismarck Muslim Community Center. He was allowed to address the North Dakota Senate that day instead.

The Grand Forks Herald reported that Koleilat's message to the Senate was broadly non-sectarian and did not employ terms specific to Islam.

"You alone we worship, and you alone we ask for help," Koleilat said. "Show us the straight way, the way of those on whom you have bestowed your grace, not the way of those who earned your anger nor those who went astray. Oh God, guide us with those whom you have guided, and preserve us with those whom you have preserved."

But the nature of those remarks had no bearing on the opinions of some lawmakers, who insisted that allowing a non-Christian to deliver an invocation was inappropriate on Ash Wednesday.

"I mean, you had representatives on the floor with ash on their foreheads commemorating the day," said Rep. Dwight Kiefert (R-Valley City). "And so then you're going to force them to listen to a prayer that they don't agree with? It wasn't very well thought out, I don't think. If it would have been a different day, maybe it would have been better. "

There was also quite a bit of chatter in advance of Koleilat's invocation on social media. Someone posted on the Facebook page for District 24 Republicans (Kiefert's district) that this was a case of "political correctness at its worst."

Kiefert, however, tried to distance himself from the Facebook comments, some of which turned ugly and were later deleted.

"[W]e just felt that it offended people," he said, adding that "Christians are all the same family, and when they're beheading Christians in...

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