Each year brings a new set of challenges, and 2012 was no exception. In 2012, CAIR Oklahoma’s staff and board continued their commitment to serving the Oklahoma Muslim community and building bridges of understanding and acceptance for individuals of all faiths. As we look to the new year, let us remind ourselves of the example of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who had a dream of equality, brotherhood, and justice for all Americans. This dream is still very much alive in the minds and hearts of American Muslims and a dream that CAIR Oklahoma will continue to work towards in carrying on the legacy of civil rights leaders. We look forward to continuing to serve you in 2013 and beyond!
The continued battle against SQ 755
An appeals court in Denver, CO upheld the injunction against Shariah law ban in Oklahoma courts. CAIR Oklahoma’s executive director, Muneer Awad, and CAIR National attorney, Gadeir Abbas, were present in Denver, CO for the ruling. CAIR Oklahoma sued to block State Question 755, approved by 70 percent of Oklahoma voters on November 2, 2012. State Question 755 bars Oklahoma state courts from considering or using Sharia law. CAIR Oklahoma and Muneer Awad contended the measure stigmatizes those who adhere to the Islamic faith, limits the results Muslims can obtain from the courts and would prevent Awad’s last will and testament from being probated in Oklahoma because his will has references to Shariah law. The appellate judges concluded the amendment “would disfavor (only) his religion,” in violate of the U.S. Constitution’s provision stating, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This decision is an important reminder that the Constitution is the last line of defense against a rising tide of anti-Muslim bigotry in our society.
Anti-Muslim speaker at Edmond Church
CAIR Oklahoma calls on Edmond pastor to drop anti-Muslim agenda that includes spreading of false information. In a statement issues by CAIR Oklahoma, Fairview Baptist Church is requested to drop its anti-Muslim agenda citing the purported views of author and speaker Avi Lipkin. Lipkin claims that “President Barack Obama is an undercover Saudi Arabian ‘Muslim plant’ in the White House and that Muslims worship the devil.” CAIR Oklahoma respectfully asked the church to drop this speaker and other hate-mongers, and instead offer members a sincere opportunity for dialogue and information about Islam and Muslims.
CAIR Oklahoma 6th Annual Banquet
On March 30th, 2012, CAIR Oklahoma held its 6th annual awards banquet to a sold-out crowd of over 500 individuals from all over the state of Oklahoma including interfaith leaders from the OKC and Tulsa metropolitan areas. The theme of this year’s banquet was “Making Democracy Work” and featured Professor Ebrahim Moosa as this year’s keynote speaker. Additional speakers included CAIR Oklahoma executive director, Muneer Awad, Imam Imad Enchassi, comedia Dean Obeidallah, and master of ceremonies, Adam Soltani.
4th Annual Muslims Youth Leadership Symposium (MYLS)
On the week on July 13 – 15, CAIR Oklahoma hosted its 4th annual Muslim Youth Leader Symposium (MYLS) program at Oklahoma City University. MYLS aims to empower American Muslim youth to reclaim the image of Islam in the mainstream through positive social activism. This year’s symposium included workshops that promoted social justice, coalition building, grassroots organizing, public speaking, and debating legislation. Over 40 students from across Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas attended MYLS, and discussed proactive measures to counter challenges facing the American Muslim community. Presenters at this year’s MYLS program included Mana Tahaie of YWCA Tulsa, Imam Imad Enchassi of Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, Lance Schmitz of Capitol Hill Church of the Nazarene, Adel Syed of CAIR Los Angeles and Oklahoma State Representative Emily Virgin.
As New Staff Members Join the CAIR Oklahoma Team, Oklahoma Says Goodbye to Two Social Activists
In July 2012, CAIR Oklahoma welcome three new staff members to its well-established organization. The first to join was Jenell Mapp-Maynard, a social activist from Georgia that came to know CAIR Oklahoma through its 6th annual banquet earlier this year. Mapp-Maynard joined the team as operations coordinator and plays a large role in event planning and general advocacy. Shortly thereafter, Jillian Holzbauer-Frazier joined CAIR Oklahoma’s team as the first to fill the position of communications director. Holzbauer-Frazier has a lengthy resume of social activism, having had co-founded the Tulsa chapter of Amnesty International and being one of the major individuals involved in organizing an Islamophobia conference at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 2011. Last, but not least, Adam Soltani joined CAIR Oklahoma’s team as the organization’s third Executive Director. Soltani is also a founding board member of CAIR Oklahoma and has had major involvement in most CAIR Oklahoma events throughout the years. As the community welcome these three new staff members, they were also saddened to have to bid farewell to operations coordinator Nazia Khan, and executive director Muneer Awad. Khan has gone on to pursue a career in social activism while Awad joined CAIR New York as their first executive director. Awad stays on as part of CAIR Oklahoma in his capacity as Advisor to the Executive Director to help facilitate a smooth transition into the next year.
Vandals attack OKC mosque
On August 12, 2012 at 2:45 AM, vandals pulled into the parking lot of the Grand Mosque of Oklahoma City and fired several rounds of paintballs at the mosque’s doors. CAIR Oklahoma immediately called on state and federal law enforcement authorities to investigate the attack as a potential hate crime. Additionally, as a response to this and other incidents around the country, CAIR Oklahoma developed a “Community Safety Guide” to help protect against anti-Muslim bigotry and to protect constitutional rights.
Voice Your Vote Campaign
In September of this year, CAIR Oklahoma conducted voter registration drives at local Islamic Centers in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Stillwater, and Tulsa. The Voice Your Vote campaign was also designed to motivate Oklahoma Muslims that were already registered to vote to get out and vote for the November 2012 presidential elections. This campaign served as a reminder that American Muslims must exercise their right to vote, and by doing so we are empowering our community, locally and nationally. Through this Voice Your Vote campaign, CAIR Oklahoma also distributed Oklahoma state voting guides that provided fellow Oklahomans with information on voting procedures, early voting, and absentee voting. Nationally, CAIR chapters assisted thousands of American Muslim register to vote in time for this year’s presidential elections.
Know the Legacy: The Life of the Messenger of God
On September 19, 2012, CAIR Oklahoma kicked off a campaign to help educate fellow Oklahomans about the life of the Prophet Muhammad. This campaign, entitled Know the Legacy, was initiated in response to the anti-Islam video that was released on YouTube a week prior, and the unfortunate protests and sparks of violences that ensued in the Middle East. CAIR Oklahoma has, to date, distributed over 1,000 copies of the PBS award-winning documentary, ‘Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,’ to individuals, churches, synagogues, and interfaith groups throughout Oklahoma. CAIR Oklahoma will continue with this campaign in 2013 and hope to broaden its reach.
CAIR Oklahoma kicks off Anti-bullying campaign
October is national anti-bullying month, and this year CAIR Oklahoma kicked off its anti-bullying campaign and workshops. CAIR Oklahoma’s goal is to address two major concerns when it comes to bullying. First, CAIR Oklahoma wants to ensure that all Islamic Schools in the state have anti-bullying policies in place, conduct annual anti-bullying training workshops for students, teachers, and parents, and provide a list of references to Islamic Schools on anti-bullying initiatives. Secondly, CAIR Oklahoma wants to address the concerns of anti-Muslim bullying throughout the state, whether it be bullying that is faced at school, at work, or in other similar settings. In 2012, CAIR Oklahoma held anti-bullying trainings and workships for over 400 students, teachers, and parents in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
November 2012: A month of Civil Rights Victories
Tulsa Bank’s Controversial Policy
On November 7, 2012, CAIR Oklahoma spoke out on behalf of a Muslim woman that was prevented from entering Tulsa’s Valley National Bank. Although later granted permission to enter the bank, the Muslim woman chose not to for fear of further harassment by bank employees. CAIR Oklahoma publicly called on Valley National Bank to review its inappropriate and discriminatory policy that treats customers wearing religious head coverings differently than other patrons. Valley National bank cited its “no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses” policy as the reason for singling out this Muslim woman. According to Valley National, this policy would be applied to anyone that wears religious headdress, making many religious minorities feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in their banking institution. CAIR Oklahoma will continue to work with Valley National Bank in reviewing its “no hats” policy and in helping to make adjustments as necessary to ensure Muslim women and individuals of all faith groups are made to feel welcome as customers.
U.S. Muslim Air Force Veteran Removed From ‘No-Fly’ List: Returns to Oklahoma in Time to Spend Holidays with Terminally Ill Mother
After six months of attempting to return to his hometown of McAlester, Oklahoma, Muslim U.S. Air Force veteran Saadiq Long finally arrived home on November 19, 2012. Though he moved to Qatar in 2000 to teach English, Long maintained close ties with his Oklahoma family, and in April 2012 attempted to return to Oklahoma to visit his terminally-ill mother. At this time, he was told by authorities he was not allowed to board the flight, as his name appeared on a “no fly” list. He sought help and answers from the U.S. Embassy in Qatar, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, but received none. Saadiq’s plight came to the attention of the Oklahoma chapter of Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in August, at which point CAIR Oklahoma worked closely with his family and friends to get Saadiq’s name removed from the “no-fly” list and ensure his safe trip home in time for the holidays. In addition to legal representation and media appearances, CAIR Oklahoma helped circulate an online petition started by Saadiq’s sister, Ava Anderson, asking FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to allow Saadiq to fly home; the petition garnered over 7,000 signatures in a matter of days. Special thanks to the Oklahoma Conference of Churches and Oklahoma Peace House for their support in seeking the return of Saadiq Long to his hometown.
2nd Annual Art in the Heartland
In conjunction with the Oklahoma City University chapter of Muslim Student Organization, CAIR Oklahoma hosted the 2nd annual Art in the Heartland on Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at Oklahoma City University’s Wanda Bass Atrium. The event was attended by over 200 individuals, and featured artwork of Oklahoma Muslim artists from Oklahoma City, Edmond, Stillwater, Norman, and more. Art in the Heartland is a local initiative inspired by Islamic faith and cultural diversity in Oklahoma, and offers an outlet for Oklahoma Muslims to combat stereotypes through creative expression while forging a broader dialogue within the Oklahoma interfaith community.
CAIR Oklahoma plans to bring Art in the Heartland to Tulsa for the first time in 2013.