Remarks on Muslims arouse ire

Los Angeles Times, via the Chicago Tribune, Mar. 5, 2003

SEATTLE — When state lawmaker Lois McMahan chose to not participate in a Muslim prayer at the House of Representatives in Olympia, it was, the Republican says, for private reasons.

Now her personal protest has become a public spectacle.

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“It’s an issue of patriotism,” McMahan, a conservative Christian, reportedly said. “The Islamic religion is so … part and parcel with the attack on America. . . . Even though the mainstream Islamic religion doesn’t profess to hate America, nonetheless it spawns the groups that hate America.”

Muslim groups have since demanded an apology from McMahan, and state Republican leaders have condemned her actions as “inappropriate.”

Just before the Muslim prayer Monday, McMahan says she left to get a glass of water. Returning, she found that the prayer had started. “For personal reasons,” McMahan says, “I chose to remain off of the House floor.”

Afterward, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter asked her reasons for “walking out,” and she made the statement that has hounded her since. McMahan says she stands by her statement but insists her action was not “a walkout.”

As many as 20 other state representatives were not in attendance during the prayer; many were in the lobby. The Post-Intelligencer said Cary Condotta also walked out during the prayer, which he denies. He says he was simply “not interested.”

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