An imam who has been praised for his social justice work but criticized for his statements about Israel delivered the daily prayer at the House of Representatives on Thursday.
Omar Suleiman, the founder and president of the Dallas-based Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, was introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after having been sponsored by Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson. In his prayer, Suleiman called for “peace, not war; Love, not hate; benevolence, not greed; unity, not division. And we commit ourselves to not betraying our prayers with actions that contradict them.”
As The Jerusalem Post reported, Suleiman has a history of anti-Israel statements. During the 2014 Gaza war, Suleiman wrote on his Facebook page, “God willing on this blessed night as the 3rd Intifada begins, the beginning of the end of Zionism is here. May Allah help us overcome this monster, protect the innocent of the world, and accept the murdered as martyrs.”
He has also also reportedly claimed that Israel was the “51st state,” and wrote on Facebook in 2015, ““Want to know what its [sic] like to live under Nazis? Look no further than how the Palestinians are treated daily by apartheid Israel.”
Suleiman is also a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. A bill protecting states’ abilities to enact anti-BDS laws passed the Republican-controlled Senate but has not been brought up for a vote in the Democrat-controlled House.
Suleiman is a prominent activist in Dallas. He was selected to deliver a prayer at a 2016 memorial service for murdered police officers, where former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama stood behind him. And last year, he was among the dozens of Jewish and Muslim activists who were arrested on Capitol Hill protesting the Trump administration’s changes to the DACA program for undocumented immigrants.
Suleiman’s benediction was praised by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress. “Love is the way! Ramadan Kareem [blessed Ramadan] @omarsuleiman504, thank you for sharing this beautiful message with all of us today,” she tweeted on Thursday.
But the decision to have Suleiman deliver the prayer was criticized by Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York, one of two Jewish Republicans in the House. “Totally unacceptable that @SpeakerPelosi had Omar Suleiman give the opening prayer yesterday in the House,” he tweeted Friday morning. “He compares Israel to the Nazis & calls them terrorists, supports Muslim Brotherhood, incites violence calling for a Palestinian antifada & the end of zionism, etc. Bad call.”