By Nigel Boys
Mandela Barnes, the Democratic Representative for Milwaukee, who identifies as Christian, in an attempt to promote diversity, invited Janan Najeeb to pray at the Wisconsin State Assembly.
Najeeb, the president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition and founder of the Islamic Resource Center, fulfilled her invitation on Thursday as she led the first prayer to Allah on the Assembly floor, according to Christian News.net.
“There is just so much for us to get over in terms of our fears,” Barnes told the Journal Sentinel. Najeeb added that it was her hope that lawmakers “realize that Muslims are part of the fabric of our society… and we are adding our story to the stories of the many communities that came before us and created this country.”
In recent weeks, Najeeb, who is married to physician Waleed Najeeb, was among those who supported the Muslims who were told by Ariens manufacturing company they could no longer take prayer breaks, other than at designated meal times. Since the Islamic faith requires Muslims to pray five times a day at specific times, several of the Muslim workers walked out of their job, but some remained and worked with the company to find a compromise.
“It’s no longer than some other employees probably taking some bathroom breaks,” Najeeb said in her opposition to the new rules at Ariens. “They’re being basically asked to choose between their employment and their faith,” she added.
The founder of the Islamic Resource Center, who recently spoke at the Roman Catholic School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee, offered up an Islamic prayer to Allah on the Assembly floor, then read verses from the Koran.
“And among his Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors: verily in that are signs for those who know,” Najeeb said, roughly translated, citing Ar-Rum 30:22 and Al-Hujurat 49:13. “O mankind, we have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you,” she added.
The Tribune reported that before leading the prayer at the Assembly, Najeeb said, “I’m honored and excited. I’m also a little bit surprised because, based on what the clerk has sent, it’s safe to say I’m the first Muslim to do so.”
Najeeb was invited in an effort to promote diversity in what is a predominantly white, Christian body, as well as to present a more balanced picture of Muslims, according to Barnes, who considers her a friend.
“There is just so much for us to get over in terms of our fears,” Barnes said. “Muslims want the same things everyone else wants — to live peacefully, enjoy themselves and just live and breathe,” he added.
Claiming that he could not recall ever hearing a Muslim prayer in the Legislature, the office of Patrick Fuller, Wisconsin Assembly’s clerk, said that they had everybody else speak, including the Dalai Lama and Indian tribes, but not someone of the Islamic faith.
The invitation of Najeeb comes at a time when suspicion and attacks against Muslims have increased, especially after the Paris attacks last year and the San Bernardino shooting on home soil. It also comes at a time when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump drew fierce criticism for calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the U.S.
The anger of American Muslims was also enraged when Governor Scott Walker said during his 2015 presidential campaign that there are only a “handful of reasonable and moderate followers of Islam.”