Lawmaker stands by controversial prayer, others claim it was a political statement

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A prayer is at the center of a controversy in the State House. Some are calling it divisive and Islamophobic because it was said on the day the first Muslim woman was sworn into the Pennsylvania House.

The prayer was led by Rep. Stephanie Borowicz who referenced Jesus, Israel, Governor Wolf, and President Trump.

"I don't think it was actually a prayer. I think it was a political statement masked as a prayer," said Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, who was just sworn in as the first Muslim-woman elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. "I thought it was laced with xenophobia and Islamophobia."

The prayer went on for nearly two minutes before someone yelled something from the audience and House Speaker Rep. Mike Turzai tapped Borowicz.

"I think the saddest part is a lot of people who criticize Islam know nothing about Islam, they know what they think they see on the television, they know the propaganda," said Johnson-Harrell. "They don't know that Islam is a religion of inclusion and peace, they also don't know how significant Jesus is in Islam."

After the prayer was said, Democratic Leader Rep. Frank Dermody criticized what was said.

"It was not meant to inspire us, it was not meant to bring us together," said Dermody. "It was beneath the dignity of this house."

In a statement to FOX43, Borowicz says she stands by her prayer and says, "I was scheduled to pray so I prayed how I pray almost everyday."

Johnson-Harrell is open to discussing what happened Monday with Borowicz and why she feels it was divisive. But for now, she plans to move past everything and get to work.

"One of the things that happens when someone like me gets elected to the State House is, it gives other groups hope, right that they will be included," said Johnson-Harrell. "Because for many, many years we've been on the menu but now we are on the table."

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