In February 2013, Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett (R) announced the formation of the Oklahoma Legislative Caucus on Counterterrorism. The stated goal of this caucus is to help protect Oklahomans from the potential threat of terrorism.
Now who could argue with that? Oklahoma experienced one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil, and as a long-time Oklahoma resident, I want nothing more than to support all efforts to keep our state safe.
There exists a major problem, however, that all Oklahomans should be concerned about. The Counterterrorism Caucus has proven to be little more than an entity that spreads misinformation, fear, and hatred of Islam and Muslims throughout the state, in their supposed attempts to make Oklahoma safer.
If I was involved in a caucus that attempted to protect our state from potential threats of terrorism, I would ensure practical steps were taken to achieve this goal. I would also realize that threats of terrorism typically originates from extremists who are not Muslim. In fact, according to the FBI database, from 1980 to 2005, 94 percent of all acts of terror committed in the United States were carried out by individuals or groups from religious of ethnic communities that are not Muslim. Just by looking at the numbers, it is clear that terrorism could potentially come from many sources. We can even go even further, however, with the fact that no single act of terrorism has ever been perpetrated in Oklahoma by an individual associated with Islam.
Why then, would the Counterterrorism Caucus have the audacity to issue statements such as, “we are concerned about the possibility of Muslim Brotherhood organizations operating here in Oklahoma whose stated goal is replace our Constitution with Shariah law.” One must question what proof, if any, Rep. Bennett uses to make his allegations, and why he is focusing on a nonexistent problem. The only success the Counterterrorism Caucus has had thus far is in offering a solution in search of a problem, and in the process, has aided in creating an atmosphere of fear and hysteria surrounding adherents of an entire faith community.
Most recently, on Nov. 1, the Counterterrorism Caucus escalated their spread of misinformation to Oklahoma law enforcement officials by offering a CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) accredited training that features two prominent anti-Muslim speakers. How can law enforcement officials receive unbiased training about Islam and Muslims when one of the trainers, Lt. Gen. Boykin has made such extreme statements as “Muslims have no rights under the First Amendment,” and that there should be “no mosques in America.” Law enforcement officials’ highest duty is to protect and serve the public and to do so without bias, how can this caucus justify sponsoring biased trainers to train our law enforcement officers? Furthermore, how can CLEET allow this course to be accredited when they admit that they do not review instructors and material before offering accreditation?
It is time that we, as Oklahomans, hold our representatives accountable for spreading fear and hatred. If we allow a legislative caucus to continue to spread prejudice throughout our state, then we have failed in holding them to their responsibility of representing all the people of Oklahoma.