Showing 'the face of Islam'

City recruits Interfaith Council to choose people of various faiths to lead the invocation before meetings.

May 11, 2011|By Mona Shadia,
  • Rev. Dr. Peggy Price, left, and Maria Khani stand at the peace pole at the Huntington Beach Civic Center on Monday.
Rev. Dr. Peggy Price, left, and Maria Khani stand at the… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Before the Huntington Beach City Council meets every other week, someone walks up to the podium to lead a prayer after the flag salute.

Prayers in public meetings often end with a phrase like "in Jesus' name," which reflects the country's dominant faith.

But on the day following the announcement of the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, a woman in a long, flowing, sky-blue dress and a blue scarf covering her hair walked to the podium. With her head down, she led the prayer.

Maria Khani, a representative of the Islamic faith on the Greater Huntington Beach Interfaith Council, didn't lead the prayer on that Monday evening as a result of the news about the killing of an extremist who used her faith to commit terrorist acts that changed the world almost 10 years ago.

In fact, it wasn't Khani's first time leading the prayer at the council meeting.


At first glance, it seemed like a coincidence. But thinking about it, Khani said it was an act of God, who usually works in mysterious ways.

"I said, 'Wow! God wanted me to do the invocation,'" Khani, a Huntington Beach resident, said. "I was thinking to myself on Sunday when the incident happened, and I said, 'Maybe God has a plan. Maybe he wants a Muslim to be in a city hall doing an invocation.'"

Fighting for a voice

Since 9/11, Muslims have been blamed for and associated with actions that they say do not represent their faith. Many have spoken in opposition to Bin Laden and his followers through various media outlets, held community prayers and even prayed at Capitol Hill in solidarity with 9/11 victims' families.

But it always seemed as if their voice was not loud enough or simply not given enough attention, said the Rev. Peggy Price of the Center for Spiritual Living in Seal Beach.

Price, a Huntington Beach resident, is one of the founders of the Interfaith Council.

"Moderate Muslims, most of Muslims, were hijacked on 9/11, but then continued to be hijacked by the media," she said.

Price spoke of the many press conferences and events she attended with Muslims speaking against acts of terrorism in the name of Islam, and the disappointment she felt when the story didn't make the media or only got a few paragraphs in the back of a newspaper.

Khani's presence that night was a subtle reminder to all Americans.

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