With Donald Trump’s Oklahoma visit two days away, religious leaders Wednesday called for him and other presidential candidates to reject anti-Muslim bigotry.
Trump has received criticism for not challenging anti-Muslim comments made by a person who asked him a question at a New Hampshire town hall event. Another candidate, Ben Carson, has said he does not support the idea of a Muslim becoming president.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on the American-Islamic Relations, and the Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, issued a joint statement saying this type of rhetoric leads to fear and hate crimes and runs counter to the ideals on which this country was founded.
“Bigotry is not natural, it is learned,” the statement said. “And it begins with the propagation of information that is patently untrue, as well as insensitive. Such untruths are dangerous and damaging to the fabric that holds us together as a nation of religious freedom. History has shown repeatedly that hateful words too often lead to violence.”
Soltani said in a news conference at the state Capitol that his community has seen vandalism of mosques and death threats.
“As an American Muslim, honestly, I have run out of ways or words to describe the hurt and the pain that one goes through when they hear hateful and divisive statements, especially when it is in regards to their faith or their ethnic background.
“And now we are deeply troubled and deeply concerned that several presidential candidates have continued to beat this drum of hatred and fear-mongering. Islam is a religion of peace. Islam is a religion of mercy and compassion.”