The Beaverton-Tigard Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship & Concerned Citizens has canceled their “Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast” after their decision to exclude a Muslim leader resulted in most of Washington County’s mayors pulling out. The Oregonian recaps the story that I also mentioned yesterday:
BEAVERTON -- Organizers canceled a planned prayer breakfast Tuesday after learning that most of Washington County's mayors and one of two main speakers wouldn't attend the May 5 event because a Muslim leader was excluded from participating.
Uniting the community's pastoral, political and business people in prayer had been the purpose of the Mayors' Prayer Breakfast of Washington County, he said. Without the host -- Beaverton Mayor Rob Drake -- and other mayors, he said, that couldn't happen.
Shahriar Ahmed, president of the Bilal Mosque Association in Beaverton, along with Rabbi David Rosenberg of Portland, had been invited to the otherwise Christian breakfast at Drake's request.
Ahmed had been scheduled to give the breakfast's closing prayer from the dais before the fellowship informed him he couldn't.
The fellowship apologized to Drake for placing him in an awkward position that caused him to withdraw as host and also to the Muslim community for any offense "taken to remarks related" to the breakfast. The apologies came in a news release.
Drake told fellowship members late last week he would not attend because they had withdrawn their invitation to Ahmed. Rosenberg also decided not to attend. And several other county mayors and Tom Brian, chairman of the county's Board of Commissioners, quickly followed Drake's lead.
A fellowship spokesman, Peter Reding, had said the invitation was withdrawn by the steering committee because Muslims pray to a God they call Allah and they aren't part of the fellowship's "Judeo-Christian tradition."
Religious representatives including Muslims criticized the reasoning, saying tenets of the Muslim faith intertwine historically with those of Christianity and Judaism.
Drake said Tuesday he had received about 600 e-mail and other responses at City Hall about his decision to skip the breakfast. "And you can count on two hands the negative comments," he said.
"I appreciate the community's outpouring of support for diversity, tolerance and understanding," Drake said after learning the breakfast was canceled.
Meanwhile, the fellowship's Dancer said that Oregon Air National Guard Col. Garry Dean, scheduled as one of the breakfast's two inspirational speakers, had also decided not to participate.
"The Oregon National Guard does not and cannot support an organization that excludes others based on religion," said Air Guard Capt. Misti Mazzia, a spokeswoman. "When it comes to any discrimination against anyone, that's a no-brainer in the military."
It is wonderful that so many people took the time to e-mail Mayor Drake to offer support for his decision. Hopefully, the Beaverton-Tigard Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship & Concerned Citizens will use this experience to learn more about the Muslim faith and consider sponsoring interfaith events in the future if they intend to hold events with public officials.