Imam Omar Suleiman, the director of the Yaqeen Institute, gave the opening invocation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. He gave a prayer for peace and guidance of the house members on March 9.
In it, he said, “Let us not be deterred by the hatred that has claimed the lives of innocent worshippers across the world, but emboldened by the love that gathered them together to remember you, and gathered us together to remember them.”
In response, members of the American right went after Suleiman with accusations against him for being radical. This included representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY) claiming that Nancy Pelosi made a “bad call” for inviting a “radical” Imam. These attacks also led both Suleiman and members of the left to defend him against this backlash.
Suleiman’s supporters quickly defended him against what they saw as unfair islamophobic attacks against a peace-loving Imam.
According to TRT, British journalist Mehdi Hasan tweeted, “A Muslim-American Imam of Palestinian descent – @omarsuleiman504 [Omar Suleiman’s Twitter Handle] – with a long track record of interfaith work, speaks in Congress & offers a beautiful prayer, calling for love & unity. What do Republicans do? Trash him as an extremist and an anti-Semite. America, 2019.”
In the Dallas News, Suleiman defended himself against the attacks against him by saying “My parents were displaced Palestinians due to the occupation and ended up meeting in Houston. They were activists, and my late mother wrote poetry about the Palestinian catastrophe. But I was taught early on to not let championing the Palestinian cause descend into anti-Semitism in private or in public.”
“When a politician who knows nothing about me leads the charge in trying to mischaracterize me, of course throwing in the Islamophobic trope ‘supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood’ to make me seem particularly scary, it’s important to ask why I’m suddenly the target of these smears and not before in other similar appearances,” he added, in reference to his previous appearances with Barack Obama.