Quran taken from Texas Capitol chapel recovered by state police. They aren’t saying who removed it.
Days after it went missing, DPS identified the person who removed a family Quran Rep. Salman Bhojani had placed in the chapel. The state has since provided its own copy.
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At the start of the holy month of Ramadan — as Muslims across the state began their observance — state Rep. Salman Bhojani learned the state Capitol Chapel lacked a Quran.
The Euless Democrat, one of just two Muslim members of the Texas Legislature, reached for his own family’s Quran so Muslims visiting the Capitol would have a place to pray. On March 23, he placed his copy of the religious text, bound in a maroon cover with gold detailing, in the small sanctuary on the Capitol’s fourth floor.
But less than a week later, the Quran disappeared.
Following an investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which is responsible for Capitol security, the person who took the Quran has been located and is cooperating to get Bhojani’s personal copy returned to him. The identity of that person and their motivation for removing it from the chapel remains unknown.
“I am pleased and relieved that my family Qur’an has been located and there will soon be a Qur'an available for use again in the Capitol Chapel,” Bhojani said in a statement Tuesday. “The Chapel is a safe space for all Texans to practice their faith traditions and I’m honored that our Muslim brothers and sisters have a place to pray and reflect, especially during this holy month of Ramadan.”
DPS did not respond to a request for comment. While Bhojani will soon have his family’s Quran back, the state has since placed its own copy in the chapel for public use.
The chapel in the state Capitol is easy to miss, tucked at the end of a quiet hallway.
The small room is lined by wooden benches surrounding a small table and a lone prayer kneeler facing a bouquet of artificial sunflowers and hydrangeas. Last week, just two bibles rested on the table. A guest book lay nearby, recording visits from Texans from San Antonio and the town of Blessing but also from as far as Mumbai, India.
By the door, a framed plaque with the name of state Rep. Will Metcalf, who chairs the House’s committee on administration, welcomes visitors to the space.
“Trusting that those who seek shall find, may this sanctuary be used to renew your spirit, restore your faith, relieve your burdens, and replenish your peace,” it reads.
Bhojani first learned there was no Quran in the chapel from Woori Juntos, a community group from Houston that’s advocating at the Legislature for increased language access to state health services among other issues.
“We just noticed a gap and wondered ‘that seems like an easy fix’,” said Sarah Syed, the group’s senior community organizer.
Bhojani moved quickly to add his family’s copy to the Chapel and later posted about it on Twitter on March 28.
“As Muslims across Texas observe the Holy month of Ramadan, we wanted to ensure they had a place to pray–so I added my family Qur’an,” Bhojani wrote. “It's a small step towards progress, but I'm proud to have been a part of it.”
The Quran was already gone when the staff of Woori Juntos visited the chapel the following morning.
A freshman lawmaker, Bhojani was sworn in to the Texas House following his November victory to represent House District 92 in Tarrant County. Along with Suleman Lalani, who won election to House District 76 in Fort Bend County, they became the first two Muslims — and the first South Asians — to serve in the Legislature.
Bhojani is not new to public service, though, serving as a member of the Euless City Council for three years. He was the first person of color elected to the council. A lawyer by trade, Bhojani came to Texas from Pakistan with his family when he was a teenager.
The Texas Legislature has not always been a welcoming place to Muslims. Back in 2007, when the Senate’s daily invocation was delivered for the first time by a Muslim cleric, then-state senator Dan Patrick boycotted the prayer. Patrick now presides over the chamber as the lieutenant governor of the state.
“I think that it’s important that we are tolerant as a people of all faiths, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse all faiths, and that was my decision,” Patrick said after the prayer. “I didn’t want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that.”
More recently, the annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day — a day on which Muslim Texans come to the Capitol to learn about state government and speak with their representatives — has been met with protest from inside and outside the building. In 2015, protesters interrupted a press conference at the start of Texas Muslim Capitol Day. One yanked the microphone from an event organizer. Others yelled as attendees, including many children, sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, former state Rep. Molly White, R-Belton, left instructions for her staff to ask Muslim visitors to her office on that day to declare allegiance to the United States.
Two years later, more than a thousand supporters formed a human shield around Muslim visitors to protect them from protesters. On the 20th anniversary of the event, Texas Muslim Capitol Day was celebrated again this year without interruptions with Bhojani and Lalani, as well as other legislators, in attendance.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/04/04/quran-texas-capitol-taken/.
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