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Session opens with Muslim prayer

January 10, 2002

Session opens with Muslim prayer



By LAURA ERNDE
laurae@herald-mail.com


The Maryland House of Delegates grew quiet as Mohammad Bashar Arafat stepped to the rostrum to give the opening prayer of the 2002 Maryland General Assembly.

Arafat chanted the opening passage of the Koran in Arabic, then translated it into English for the 141 lawmakers and their guests.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said he invited the imam to give the prayer to show the state remains committed to religious tolerance in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The specter of Sept. 11 overshadowed the usual exuberance of opening day of the Maryland General Assembly.

In one of its first actions of the 90-day session, the legislature passed a resolution sending sympathy to the victims of the attacks.

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Del. John P. Donoghue nominated Taylor, D-Allegany, to serve as House speaker for the eighth straight year.

"He has led us in good times and in bad. He commands respect," said Donoghue, D-Washington.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, seconded the nomination, saying Taylor's talent is needed in a year in which the legislature faces the challenge of increasing security in tough economic times.

"This is an historic year. We need critical leadership," Hecht said.

Meanwhile, the Washington County delegation began its session without its chairman, Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington, who is recuperating from a Dec. 27 car accident.

Del. George C. Edwards, R-Allegany/Garrett, made an announcement about McKee's absence on the House floor.

"Keep him in thoughts and prayers," said Edwards, who chairs the Western Maryland delegation.

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