When Dina Noor and Rasel Khondaker arrived at the state Capitol on Friday for Muslim Day, there were only two protestors outside, and one sign, with a very direct message.
“We try not to think about it,” Noor said. She, a New York transplant, and Khondaker were married in 2011 and now live in Tulsa.
“We’re just trying to live very middle-class lives,” Noor said. “I work at Verizon.”
Hundreds of Muslims attended the state’s first Muslim Day, a venture organized by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council for American Islamic Relations.
Attendees listened to speakers talk about racial profiling and learned how to speak to legislators, but some had to walk past dozens of protestors shouting things like “Allah is a pedophile” or “Mohammad is in hell.”
But even those efforts were somewhat drowned out, as more than 50 “interfaith partners” coordinated to line up in front of protestors, allowing attendees to enter mostly unharassed.
Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-OK, said Muslims who planned to come Friday had been warned of the protests ahead of time, and many only responded “God bless you” as they entered the building to taunts.
Public Safety Commissioner Michael Thompson said security was increased at the Capitol for the event.
Khondaker said he and his wife hoped to “learn how the system works.” He had only been to the Capitol once before, he said.
“We all want the same things, I think, in some ways,” Khondaker said of Muslims and protestors. “Everyone just wants to live a happy, healthy life.”
He said he believed conservative talking points like “Sharia law” and the idea that Muslims want to take over the government are scare tactics.
“If you put that fear into someone and get them to be scared, you can manipulate them however you want,” he said. “I think that’s what’s happening.”
Soltani said the idea for a “Muslim Day” had been brewing for years but had always been pushed aside. Based on Friday’s attendance, he said he believed it happened at the right time.
“This is a day where we see Muslims sending a message of love, peace and understanding,” he said. “Unfortunately, on the way in, you saw messages of hate, as well.”
Those in attendance were greeted at the north Capitol entrance by about two dozen protestors, some shouting for them to go home and carrying signs disparaging Islam. Some carried American flags.
Ray Wade, a pastor for a church in Harrah, carried the sign equating Islam with death.
“They have proven it to be,” he said. “It is not just a slogan or a statement. Sadly, it has been demonstrated wherever they have power.”
Doug McDougal, a Marine veteran, came from north Dallas to protest.
“Somebody has to stand up against this cult,” he said.
Ivan Toulter, who lives just north of Edmond, said he was there to protest the “Islaminization of America.” He said Islam is a militant organization.
Corie Compston of Guthrie said Muslims are refusing to co-exist in peace.
“Even if they say they are, they are lying,” she said. “They are just a violent culture.”
Kathy Malone of Moore carried signs reading “Stop Sharia Law” and “No Americanphobia.”
“They are always saying we are Islamphobic,” she said. “We are not Islamphobic. They are in our country. They have Americanphobia. They don’t want to go by our country’s laws and our rules. They want to change it to their country’s.”
During the afternoon, rugs were rolled out on the second floor of the rotunda for an interfaith prayer service.
One protestor tried to interrupt the service by walking toward those on their knees and loudly reciting the Lord’s Prayer. She was intercepted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and led away.