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Updated: Protestors oppose Northern Virginia imam who gave House's opening prayer

Anita Kumar

Correction: Del. Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas) was sitting in his seat with his head bowed in prayer when the imam was delivering the prayer.

Update: About a dozen delegates, most Republicans, were not in the House chamber at the time of Imam Johari Abdul-Malik's prayer. They were in their lounge or downstairs, where members had met immediately prior to the opening of session.

In his prayer, Abdul-Malik asked them "to go beyond tolerance to understanding...Where there is fear, let us find faith." Delegates joined him in saying saying "amen" at the conclusion.

Missing delegates included: Robert B. Bell (R-Charlottesville), Kathy J. Byron (R-Lynchburg), John A. Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), Timothy D. Hugo (R-Fairfax), Riley E. Ingram (R-Hopewell), Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas), Lacey E. Putney (I-Bedford), James Edmunds (R-Halifax) and John Cox (R-Ashland). Many would not comment about their absence.

"It's certainly people's right to participate or not to participate,'' said Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who invited the imam. "They certainly missed a great prayer. I'm not going to judge my colleagues who chose not to participate."

The House has 100 delegates.

Original post:

A handful of demonstrators gathered outside the state Capitol this morning to protest the appearance of a Falls Church imam whom they accuse of condoning violence. He will give the opening prayer in the House of Delegates today. Read this morning's full story.

"It's inappropriate,'' James Lafferty, chairman of The Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, said of the imam's appearance. "The politicians need to stand up and say something."

His group, along with the Traditional Values Coalition and Act for America, held the event.

Denise Lee of Woodbridge held up a sign that said, "Mr. Ebbin, Why are you haboring a Jihadist supporter?" It referred to Del. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria) who asked Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center to give the prayer.

Two of the Sept. 11 hijackers briefly worshiped at Abdul-Malik's mosque and one of its former imams, Anwar al-Aulaqi, has been linked to accused terrorists and subsequently denounced by the mosque, one of the largest in the United States. But Abdul-Malik was not affiliated with the mosque in 2001, when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. In recent years, he has made statements following the arrest of Muslims on terrorism charges, arguing for due process, civil rights and fair sentencing.

A few minutes after the protest, Abdul-Malik, was seen walking the halls of the Capitol.

"I want to be clear: I think I've been mischaracterzied by a group that has an agenda,'' he said. "I think this is a group that has a particular agenda, but I think in this case they picked the wrong the imam. If we're talking about my own recording of engaging in outreach, I've been a part of the Interfaith Conference of Washington for over a decade. I sit on its board."

Many of the letters have asked House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) to revoke Abdul-Malik's invitation, but Howell's chief of staff, G. Paul Nardo, said no such action is planned. The House's practice is generally to allow delegates to invite religious leaders of differing faiths, he said.

The prayer is scheduled for noon.

Manassas resident Allison Kipp, who wrote a letter to her legislators opposing the imam's prayer but did not attend the protest, said she is not surprised the House is not revoking the invitation. "It says more about political correctness than safety about fellow citizens,'' she said.

But Rizwan Jaka, chair of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, for which Abdul-Malik is a board member, said: "He's renowned for his dedication to interfaith and peace. He does so much interfaith work and community service. It's unfortunate that he's portrayed like this. I think what you're seeing grows out of fear, uncertainty and doubt. But calling him these names is just that is unproductive and false."

About a dozen delegates, all Republicans, were not in the chamber at the time of the prayer. They were in their lounge or downstairs, where members were meeting immediately beforehand.

"It's certainly people's right to participate or not to participate,'' Ebbin said. "They certainly missed a great prayer. I'm not going to judge my colleagues who chose not to participate."

By Anita Kumar  |  March 11, 2010; 10:33 AM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar  
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"Denise Lee of Woodbridge held up a sign that said, "Mr. Ebbin, Why are you haboring a Jihadist supporter?""

Why is Woodbridge "haboring" people who can't spell. Just saying...

Posted by: antonioeliasiv | March 11, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

"Racism" is the word to use when all else fails. Gets everyone's attention. "Did he say 'racism'?? Battle stations!"

Prove to me that YOU are NOT a racist. NOW!

Posted by: uncivil | March 11, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Repubs, did you ever hear of religious freedom. You are an embarrassment to the great history of Virginia where the Founding Fathers deemed religius freedom a Constitutional right.

Posted by: chucky-el | March 11, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: jckdoors | March 11, 2010 2:01 PM | Report abuse

So according to those who did not attend any Catholic priest who delivers a prayers should be condemned for what other priest have done in their parish. Slippery slope.

Posted by: rlj611 | March 11, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

So according to those who did not attend any Catholic priest; Baptist, Methodist minister who delivers a prayers should be condemned for what other priest/ministers have done in their parish/church even though the individuals themselves is not guilty. Slippery slope.

Posted by: rlj611 | March 11, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

this is a good illustration of exactly why the prayer thing should be abolished. if delegates want to pray, there's always church

Posted by: hohandy1 | March 11, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

As neighbors of Imam Johari and the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center,( St. Anthony Catholic Church), we support the Imam in his work to help people of all faiths in supporting immigration reform, affordable housing and being able to live with dignity and respect that everyone deserves.

Posted by: engdahlfoto | March 11, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

If there is going to be a protest at all, it should be about having "prayers" at a government function.

Posted by: www-tryveg-com | March 11, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Don't think that Islam is a religion - it is just another political movement!

Posted by: rtatlow | March 11, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

it's no wonder we have a $4 billion (and growing!) budget deficit. what a worthless, bloated bureaucracy. pray on your own dime, not mine.

Posted by: millionea7 | March 11, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps someone can explain why a group of adults finds it necessary to invoke the aid of a fictitious supernatiral being regardless of what name is used.

Posted by: HenryBurlingame | March 11, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

If all the various legislatures have a prayer to seek god's guidance, then : 1) apparently god wasn't listening, and 2) from how you conduct business the magical being doesn't want anything to do with you.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 11, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Oh well. If I were a delegate, I wouldn't attend any pray, no matter who gave it. Don't see why this should be any different. Big deal. So long as they got their work done, I don't give two figs.

Posted by: akchild | March 11, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see 12 Republicans take a stand against mixing religion and politics.

Posted by: ajlerner1 | March 11, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Johari Abdul-Malik's real name is Winslow Seale. He's from Brooklyn and is just another one who gave himself a fake name that he thought sounded like an Arab. Bwaaahaaaaaaa

Posted by: checkered1 | March 11, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

I was born and raised in Virginia, brought up as a Southern Baptist and converted to Islam in 2006. In the short years I have been Muslim I have noticed a lot of extremism from the people of my State and Country about American Muslims. The fact that this opening prayer was an issue with many officials in Virginia, concerns me. We all worship and pray to the same God, we just have a different interpretation of God; as do the Christians from the Jews. You can't just allow Christianity or Judaism prayer into the Govnerment and not allow Islam.

It saddens me that many people blame an entire religion based on the ignorant actions of Muslim Arab extremists. Many of the Muslims in America have never even been to the Middle East, how can they be responsible for what happens in other countries? It would be like Christians in America being blamed for the extreme religious attacks in any other country. Would American Christians like it if everyone blamed ALL Christians around the world for cruel crimes caused by other Christians that Christian Americans have nothing to do with? That use your religion in the wrong way and make it their own? Of course they wouldn't. This is the daily struggle for American Muslims everyday.

Muslims are fighting for civil rights in America because most of them are American by birth as well as their families from over 100 years (like mine), and deserve the same treatment as all other Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs. That is what we (Muslims) are fighting for in our own country everyday and we will continue to fight for our rights as American Citizens.

"Every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshiping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience." George Washington, Letter, United Baptist Chamber of Virginia May 1789.

"The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded upon the Christian Religion." 1797 the treaty of Tripoli, signed by President Washington, and approved by the Senate of the United States.

Posted by: Lynnphotos84 | March 11, 2010 9:35 PM | Report abuse

For all of you above who are speaking without knowing minimal facts, please learn who this Imam is before you actually talk.

Abdul-Malik has openly expressed support for some very radical individuals.
His defense of convicted terror facilitator Ali Al-Timimi, an extremist cleric who stated "mujahideen killed while fighting Americans in Afghanistan would die as martyrs," is a prime example. According to court documents, Timimi recommended that his followers "obtain jihad training from Lashkar-e-Taiba because its belief system was good and it focused on combat."

Furthermore, just last month, the Imam's mosque hosted a fundraiser for Sabri Benkahla, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for obstruction of justice and perjury for statements he made before a Virginia grand jury investigating the "Virginia jihad" terror cell inspired by Timimi.

Abdul-Malik is on record about the moderation of Anwar al-Awlaki, a previous spiritual leader at Dar al-Hijrah who went on to become an al-Qaeda affiliated radical fighting America from Yemen. Abdul-Malik falsely claimed that Awlaki was not extremist during his time at Dar al-Hijrah, when he stated:

"Let's be clear when Anwar Al Awlaki was at Dar Al-Hijrah, he was articulating the same message that I articulate today in Dar Al-Hijrah, a very open, a very engaging, a very community wise and contemporary understanding of the faith within the framework of its traditionalism."

However, while he was a prayer leader at Dar al-Hijrah, Awlaki declared that Palestinians who killed Israeli civilians were freedom fighters, claimed that the 9/11 terrorists were actually "victims not hijackers," and accused the FBI of pinning the blame on Muslims for the 9/11 attacks.

Abdul-Malik is not the only leader of his mosque to have defended violence or known terrorists. Several of Dar al-Hijrah's leaders have themselves been connected to, or convicted for, providing financial and logistical support to terrorist organizations.


PS. I saw that sign from that lady from Woodbridge the first commentator is talking about it was spelled right. You might want to get glasses.

Posted by: MiraShaw | March 11, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Dear Anita,

It is curious that you spoke with me yesterday at the press conference before Imam Johari Abdul Malik spoke and asked me specific questions including with which group I am affiliated, which I told you was ACT! for America, NOVA/DC Chapter and then conveniently left that information out of your article and proceeded to lie about what was on the sign I was holding. How do you get "haboring" from the word "honoring"? Your readers can see my sign here and decide what it actually says.

Antonioeliasiv it's not the people from Woodbridge who have trouble spelling. It's some reporters from The Washington Post. They also apparently have trouble telling the truth.

Posted by: DLeeActforAmerica | March 12, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Go to minute 3:49 in the link above to see what the sign really said.

Posted by: DLeeActforAmerica | March 12, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

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