(JTA) — The Texas imam who gave an invocation on the House floor responded to those who criticized his invitation over social posts in which he demonized Israel, likening the country to Nazi-era Germany.
Omar Suleiman is the founder and president of the Dallas-based Yaqeen Institute, an organization that describes itself as a resource about Islam. His May 9 invocation referred to recent attacks on houses of worship, including synagogues.
"When I said this prayer on the U.S. House floor on Thursday, I held in my heart the Jews in Pittsburgh and San Diego, the Christians in Sri Lanka, and the Muslims in Christchurch I had the opportunity of burying and praying upon," Suleiman said in an op-ed in the Dallas News on Sunday.
He wrote that since giving the invocation, "I have been attacked online and threatened with violence. This hate is similar to the hate that led to the other massacres above.
"I have never attacked the Jewish community or peddled conspiracies about it. So imagine my surprise to be accused of anti-Semitism" in the wake of his invocation, he wrote.
"I have spent my life fighting bigotry whether targeted at my Jewish brethren or at my own community, or at anyone else. Not once have I been involved in a controversy in my home town of New Orleans or Dallas involving the Jewish community or any other community that felt targeted by anything I've said or done."
Suleiman, who said his parents were "displaced Palestinians due to the occupation" and activists, said he has championed the Palestinian cause, but has not let it descend into anti-Semitism in public or private.
Two years ago, however, the German-Israeli researcher Petra Marquardt-Bigman compiled a lengthy record of incendiary social media statements about Israel by Suleiman that was posted on the Algemeiner Jewish news site. On multiple occasions, according to the research, Suleiman has wished for a third Palestinian intifada, or uprising, likened Israeli troops to Nazis, and has wished for the end of Zionism, calling Zionists "the enemies of God." He is a backer of the boycott Israel movement.
Suleiman's congresswoman, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, invited him to deliver the prayer through a standard form on the webpage of the Office of the Chaplain of the House, according to a congressional official.