OKLAHOMA CITY — Muslims converged Monday on the Capitol to learn more about the legislative process and to let their voices be heard.
Only a handful of protesters met them outside the Capitol building, where many more supporters from the interfaith community made them feel welcome.
“I don’t believe in their ideology,” said Tempest Yong of Moore, who held a sign criticizing the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I don’t believe all of that crap.”
In prior years, the number of protesters was higher.
Supporters carried signs reading “Welcome Muslim Friends,” “We’re glad you’re here,” and “Good Morning Neighbor.”
Evan Taylor, a minister from East Side Christian Church in Tulsa, said he came to show support for the Muslims.
In past years, they had been marginalized and insulted, Taylor said.
Inside the building, there was an increased presence from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
Veronica Laizure, CAIR Oklahoma civil rights director, said part of her organization’s mission is to protect civil liberties.
She told those attending not to let it be the only day they advocate.
One day, a Muslim might be a member of the Oklahoma Legislature, Laizure said.
Adam Soltani, CAIR Oklahoma executive director, said about 125 Muslims attended, plus several members of the interfaith community.
Lani Habrock, CAIR Oklahoma government affairs director, said clergy from minority religions, including Islam, have been excluded from serving as chaplain in the House chamber.
“Today, we are here to say we have power,” she said, adding that those in attendance do vote.
Oklahoma is not at odds with Islam, just as Islam is not at odds with Oklahoma, Habrock said.
“We will not accept discrimination,” she said. “Muslim rights are human rights.”
She told members to chip away at racism, ignorance and intolerance.
When Muslim Day at the Capitol began in 2015, there was a lot of anxiety and concern, Soltani said. Those attending were met with protests, hatred and bigotry, he said.
The anxiety has now turned to excitement, while the apprehension has become confidence, Soltani said.
He said his message to lawmakers was to get used to Muslims, because “we are not going anywhere.”