Sudanese-American Imam Mohammed Magid was expected to recite the Islamic call to prayer at the interfaith religious service held in honor of Donald Trump's presidential inauguration.
Instead, he invoked the Quran and recited a verse that champions ethnic diversity, and honors both sexes.
In doing so he hit two birds with one stone: he issued a divine admonishment against Trump for his campaign's xenophobia and sexism, and he put Islam's promotion of coexistence on full display.
"When we are presented with a platform to share our (Islamic) values, we must take the opportunity," the imam said about his move.
In both Arabic and English, the imam recited two Qur'anic verses.
Magid first recited the 13th verse in Surat Al-Hujarat (which translates to "The Chambers"). The surah appears to put men and women on an equal footing with regards to the universe. It also emphasizes that differences between peoples is to be embraced and celebrated, and not viewed as an act of punishment.
"O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted." - [49:13]
Magid then read the 22nd verse in Surat Ar-Rum (which translates to "The Romans"). The surah reiterates that diversity is part and parcel of God's creation, and that to get to know this creation is an accumulation of virtue, or knowledge.
"And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge." - [30:22]
Magid was one of 26 religious leaders from a diverse array of faiths who participated in the inaugural prayer service held in the Washington National Cathedral on January 21.
According to CNN, the event's program had indicated that Magid would recite the adhan. His Qur'anic reading was reportedly approved by the cathedral's officials, though it was not part of the program.
Magid received a horde of backlash when he agreed to partake in the service. "One of the tasks of the religious leader is to convey the truth and the values of Islam to everyone, including those in power," he clarified in a Facebook post. "When we are presented with a platform to share our values, we must take the opportunity."
The dean of the cathedral, Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, also chose to pray for unity and acceptance, asking God to "break down the walls that separate us" and "take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts".
Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump reiterated a rhetoric that often blurred the lines between Islam and radical extremism. He had called for a blanket ban on Muslims from entering the United States, only to adjust his proposal to a "vetting" strategy that would allow the detection of radicals before entering the country.
Trump has also suggested building a database to register Muslims in the country. Whether or not he will follow through with the registry remains to be seen.
Additionally, the president's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, has called Islam a "cancer" and a "political ideology which hides behind this notion of it being a religion".
In his inaugural address, Trump pledged to "eradicate radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth".
Imam Mohammed Magid
Magid is a prominent figure in the Muslim-American community. He is currently the executive director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, a multimillion-dollar mosque and community center in Virginia that serves some 5,000 Muslims. According to the Huffington Post, it is one of the largest Muslim congregations the US.
Magid has also led the Islamic Society of North America, which constitutes the largest Muslim group on the continent.
The imam is no stranger to the White House, having met with former US president Barack Obama on several occasions.
He has served on the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group and worked as an adviser to the White House National Security Council, aiding in the battle against Islamist extremists.