This opinion piece is by Hussein Rashid, PhD, founder of islamicate, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy.
President Trump is expected to appear Saturday at an interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral where Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society will offer the Muslim call to prayer.
Several outlets reported a controversy over Magid’s participation in this service. While there may be fellow Muslims who disagree with the decision to participate by Magid or any other faith leader, that should not serve as a distraction. The larger controversy over an imam’s inclusion of the event demonstrates a continued lack of understanding of Muslim spiritual life and acceptance of Muslims as inherently different than American.
The adhan, or call to prayer, is an important aspect of Muslim devotional life. It can be prayerful, but it is not part of a formal prayer. To suggest that Magid is praying, presumably for the success of Trump, is mistaken. When Magid calls out “I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God,” there is no benediction for anyone. There is only the praise of the divine. By framing it simply as a prayer, someone who is unfamiliar with a quarter of the world’s population may think that despite Trump’s hateful rhetoric to his fellow Americans, they are ready to submit to him unconditionally.
What makes Magid’s participation controversial for many Americans is that he is Muslim with a religious leadership role and a congregation. Yet many other faith leaders are also at this event, and no one seems to see their presence as controversial.