Bucked from doing the Fort Worth rodeo invocation, Imam Moujahed Bakhach made a soft landing Tuesday as a guest at Dallas County Commissioners Court.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins invited Bakhach and apologized to him for the Muslim-bashing that drove Bakhach from doing a second rodeo blessing this week, and also for two hate-spewing protests at Texas Muslims’ recent events in Austin and Garland.
Quoting the Bible’s Great Commandments, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” Jenkins called Bakhach up from the crowd to apologize for “citizens here in North Texas who have failed miserably.”
Bakhach, a 33-year Texan and Islamic leader in Fort Worth, thanked Jenkins and said Texas Muslims must “do more work with our neighbors and friends” to show violence is “not Islam teachings.”
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Bakhach thanked Fort Worth city leaders for support, including a Tuesday commentary in the Star-Telegram by church leaders calling for unity.
Later, Jenkins said by phone that he invited Bakhach to tell Texas Muslims they’re welcome here, not as a dig at the Stock Show.
“What the Stock Show did is the same thing I do: We have people come and pray, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, everything, to support people expressing their faith,” Jenkins said.
“This imam decided it would be best for him not to say another prayer, and that will leave him and others of his faith feeling hurt.
“My actions support the imam, the Stock Show and allowing people to express their faith openly.”
Bakhach gave the rodeo invocation on Jan. 25 at the invitation of a new interfaith committee partly based on Mayor Betsy Price’s Faith Leaders Cabinet. Announcer Bob Tallman said Bakhach “did a wonderful job.”
But Bakhach withdraw from a second appearance Sunday after a social-media backlash instigated in part by complainers in Louisiana and Utah.
Stock Show officials have said they also received complaints about a prayer led by a female graduate student from the Disciples of Christ-affiliated Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.
Jenkins, a United Methodist, has made faith a touchstone of his five-year tenure, calling on religious leaders to help relocate children awaiting immigration hearings from Central America and to support the family of a Dallas victim of the Ebola virus.
“I happen to be a born-again Christian who believes everyone is welcome in our community,” Jenkins said.
He said he was “angry” to read about Muslim-bashers interrupting a peaceful rally at the Texas Capitol last week.
An editorial in The Dallas Morning News described the Austin incident as a “disgusting” protest by “morons” and said it, along with anti-Muslim Facebook comments by one Central Texas lawmaker, “make you embarrassed to be a Texan.”
“Tell your in-laws in New York that we’re not all hateful, hayseed, redneck, ignorant Bubbas,” The News wrote.
That should go for Fort Worth, too.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538
To see Judge Jenkins’ and Imam Bakhach’s remarks, click here.