State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) gave a presentation on Monday about the history of Islam and Muslims in the United States. We covered it with a front page story in Wednesday’s paper and the event has made national and international news. The presentation comes after the Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) demanded an apology from Bennett for comments he made on his Facebook page. He did not apologize.
At the end of Monday’s presentation, Bennett declared Muslims to be a “cancer that must be cut out of the American society.”
“I’m not advocating violence against anyone,” Bennett said. “This country was founded on the freedom of religion, but I am not going to stand back and allow them to let Islam take over this nation.”
I received a message from a friend suggesting Your TIMES write a Just Folks story profiling an elementary student — a Muslim elementary student — asking how they felt about being labeled a “cancer” by their state representative.
It is not right to make the blanket statement that all Muslims are “cancerous.” In terms my younger readers can understand, this is an epic fail.
I will not begin to refute his claims about Islam and Muslims. Of course there are terrorist groups who are trying to carry out jihad against Americans. No religion is immune from people creating terror in the name of their faith.
But I do know this: There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world — I’m pretty sure if they wanted to take over, they would just take over. It doesn’t take sleeper cells invading all levels of government while waiting 20 years to set it up.
Do I believe him?
Can I prove he is wrong?
No. But I also can’t prove an asteroid the size of Texas is not going to hit the Earth as you read this. As the saying goes, “It’s impossible to prove the negative.”
John Bennett can say almost whatever he wants under the First Amendment, and I am glad he can.
But I cannot let his statements labeling all Muslims as a “cancer that must be cut out of the American society” go unchecked.
First, I do not believe it is true.
Second, I do not want to leave the impression with readers, my children, and basically the whole world, that everyone in Sequoyah County feels this way.
Third, we need to focus on economic development in the county, and a politician cannot represent us in that pursuit while making us look so unappealing on the global stage.
Rep. Bennett has helped pass legislation for the benefit of veterans and other people in the county. Through his position on the transportation committee, he has worked to get new bridges built for us.
But this statement goes too far. We may have Muslim adults and children in our county, and if we do, they deserve to be spoken of better by their representative.