By Priscilla Galstun-Khader
Oklahoma State lawmakers approved Rep. John “Islam-is-a-cancer-in-our-nation-that-needs-to-be-cut-out” Bennett’s proposal for an “Interim study on radical Islam” on July 8 2016, along with 71 other studies, for an estimated $50,000. That’s our tax dollars being used for this state-sponsored hate and fear mongering and the othering of Muslims in Oklahoma.
This McCarthy era type panel was in session at the Oklahoma state Capitol. The panel of “experts” include Rep. John Bennett and many anti-Muslim activists. In addition, “a former terrorist with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) will testify.”
Rep. John Bennett (R- Sallisaw) and other Oklahoma lawmakers used their bully- pulpit and my tax dollars to otherize me and my peers on the CAIR – OK (Council on American Islamic Relations – Oklahoma) board, by branding us as members of Hamas, a designated terrorist organization and that elected state Representatives should not interact nor engage with us.
They went even further to proclaim that we are no different from “Jihadis”, Al Qaeda, terrorists, ISIS, and that the only distinction between these vigilante extremists and us is that we wear “suits” and “big smiles as part of our Jihad”. We were termed “Suit-wearing jihadis”.
They also had Kamal Saleem, a self-proclaimed “ex- Jihadist” claim, that when CAIR advises Muslims to invoke their right to an attorney present (ahem, the 1st Amendment) when speaking to the FBI; it is “imposing Shariah law”!
Not content with all this misinformation and outright lies, they then resorted to slandering our Exec. Director Adam Soltani and in a room full of people no less, by looking him in the eye and saying with a straight face that he was a terrorist and a Hamas leader; The same Adam Soltani who I know with no doubt in my mind, has only the best interests of all people at heart, ironically including his most infamous detractors.
Allegations were also made that Muslim-owned properties in Oklahoma, including but not limited to mosques and businesses, and Muslim-led, organized and funded groups and organizations, including MSAs are all owned by the Muslim Brotherhood! In essence, we’re all owned by the MB.
But it doesn’t end there. Even though there were actual experts like Imam Imad Enchassi, Rev. William Tabbernee, and a few others who were present in the room, these State Representatives instead resorted to their favorite usual suspect, “Pastor” Paul Blair of the Blair Witch-hunt Project, “testify” to the dangers of Islam and Muslims. It was a collusion of church-and state at its finest moment.
There was no platform of any kind, level, or magnitude for alternative viewpoints. All this, even with multiple experts with decades of religious and academic experience to their credit – in the fields of religion, politics and the intersectionality of both – physically present in the room and enduring factually incorrect and misleading information.
This is the Oklahoma state legislature, with its GOP representatives at the helm using the power of the state to dehumanize, demean, and pulverize the honor and dignity of its constituents, and to wield its authority over us – the innocent. This state sanctioned Islamophobia should not and will not get a free-pass.
Today it’s us. Which demographic will it be tomorrow? And as sure as there is a tomorrow, there will be others who will be used and abused for political mileage in the future. Where does it end?
The question I have for my state legislators is this, if us Muslims are such a threat and danger to the “good state of Oklahoma”, what are your solutions to eliminate this threat? I really want to know what you have in mind for me and my people.
We’ve all been down this path before of fear and hate-mongering. I’m waiting to hear what solutions you would like to propose to your constituencies. I’m waiting and I’ve got all day.