RICHMOND, Va. -- A prayer this week before the Virginia House of Delegates sparked controversy and a protest. An imam from a controversial northern Virginia mosque gave the invocation, and there are concerns that the Muslim leader has radical Islamic connections.
Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of community outreach in Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, opened the daily session of the Virginia House of Delegates with a prayer.
"In the name of the divine, holy and creative force in our lives," Abdul-Malik said in his prayer.
The Muslim leader's appearance upset several lawmakers.
"I'm going to be somewhere else, saying the Lord's Prayer," said Del. John Cox, R-55th District. "It's just not something that I feel I can condone as an individual."
It is who the imam has condoned in the past that has lawmakers like Del. Todd Gilbert, R-15th District, wondering why Del. Adam Ebbin, D-49th District, invited him to pray.
Ebbin declined to talk to CBN News prior to the session, saying he was late. However, in a letter to fellow lawmakers, he wrote that Abdul-Malik is well-known for opposing terrorism.
But Gilbert is not so sure of the imam's loyalties.
"This particular imam and this particular mosque that he represents have had some very troubling associations and troubling teachings over the years, and that's where my concern lies," Gilbert said. "He, himself has called Zionism racist."
Gilbert said Abdul-Malik's mosque is known in some circles as the "9/11 mosque" because two of the hijackers were based there prior to the 9/11 attacks and were counseled by a radical imam.
Lawmakers in the Virginia House of Delegates are not the only ones upset by the prayer from the imam. Members of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force, the Traditional Values Coalition, as well as the Virginia Chapter of ACT! for America showed up on the capitol grounds to protest.
The groups protesting Abdul-Malik's prayer believe allowing him to give the invocation contradicts American values.
"He has said repeatedly in public that he wants the United States to come under the influence of Sharia law," said James Lafferty, chairman of the Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force. "If the United States ever comes under the influence of Sharia law, it will not be the United States. It will give out rights according to what your religion is, according to whether or not... what your gender is. We don't do that in this country."
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Abdul-Malik has called for attacks against Israel's infrastructure and has predicted a Muslim majority in America in one of his sermons, saying, "You will see Islam move from being the second largest religion in America -- that's where we are now -- to being the first religion in America."
"I hope that all of the legislators will wake up and see that there's a threat to our well-being as citizens of Virginia and citizens of the United States," said Denise Lee of ACT! for America.