Bud Kennedy

What’s wrong with a Texas imam doing a rodeo prayer, anyway?

In 2001, Imam Moujahed Bakhach condemned the 9-11 attacks.
In 2001, Imam Moujahed Bakhach condemned the 9-11 attacks. Star-Telegram archives

Nothing should divide us from our fellow Texans.

Not race, not faith, and definitely not the theology of rodeo prayers.

If we learned anything from that movie about an American hero, it’s that we are passionate about freedom. That includes the freedom of 500,000 peaceful Texas Muslims.

Yet some now stir hatred and division, just over an imam’s rodeo invocation.

Look, there’s always praying at the rodeo. This year, it reflects Fort Worth.

“If Fort Worth is the buckle of the Bible Belt, that buckle is made of many different rhinestones,” said Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom, one of several faith leaders doing invocations.

Stock Show executive Brad Barnes called Imam Moujahed Bakhach’s gentle blessing Sunday “spot-on.” But cyberbashers had a field day, calling Islam un-cowboy and worse.

(Actually, Muslims first came as 1850s cowboys and U.S. Army camel drovers.)

Rodeo announcer Bob Tallman praised Bakhach for a “wonderful job.”

But the same people who always gripe now are griping about the prayer.

As of late Thursday, the rodeo’s Facebook page had 600 comments, many bigoted and unprintable.

I phoned the Rev. Stephen Jasso of All Saints Catholic Church, until this year the only non-Protestant who did the blessings.

“We are all God’s children,” Jasso said. “We have to respect each other.”

The new prayer leaders, both men and women, include Mayor Betsy Price’s Faith Leaders Cabinet.

“They’ve always had some type of rodeo prayer,” Price said, “and this celebrates our city’s diversity.”

Only Pastor Bill Egner of Christ Chapel Bible Church is concerned. His pastors will do four invocations.

“We will go and pray in Jesus’ name,” he said.

“We would prefer to see the rodeo kept the way it historically has been. It’s part of our heritage. But that was not our call.”

Just say those rodeo cowboys need all kinds of blessings.

Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy

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