Several weeks after anti-Muslim leaflets began appearing around town, left by someone called “Miss Information,” Red Dirt Report is still no closer to finding out who is behind this campaign of, well, misinformation and outright Islamophobia.
So, on a recent afternoon, Red Dirt Report sat down with Imam Imad Enchassi, imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and a professor at Oklahoma City University and Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK). We wanted to know more about what might be causing this uptick in hate.
“They were taped on the door of the mosque or hand-delivered to CAIR,” Enchassi said of the leaflets which explained “What the Bible says about Jesus / What the Qur’an says about Muhammad” and concerns about Sharia law taking over constitutional law in Oklahoma and elsewhere.
Even the offices of Red Dirt Report was targeted by this campaign of hate and fear, as the same leaflets sent to CAIR and the mosque were copied and taped to our office door.
“This is nothing new,” Enchassi told Red Dirt Report during our meeting in his office at OCU. “It’s something we’ve been dealing with on a regular basis. This letter is just another example.”
A similar campaign, around Eastertime, occurred in 2013 as well, Enchassi said.
“It seems like there is a pattern when there is a holiday, in particular Easter,” Enchassi said. “So, working up to Easter, last year it seems like we had something else like that. After Easter we didn’t get anything.”
This anti-Muslim leafleting campaign, Enchassi said, seems to be a nationwide effort, organized via social media.
Saying that he only repels the “hate with love” and the “evil with good,” Enchassi said he responds to Miss Information and her ilk with offers of meetings to address their differences or even offer them to join him and other Muslims for a friendly meal.
After the anti-Shaira law State Question 755, Enchassi received a massive amount of reactionary mailings and he said they made sure they responded to everyone. And in some cases, Enchassi said, they made friends with the people who once considered Muslims their enemy.
“Educating people is the solution,” Enchassi said.
But even with the passage of time, some people don’t get the message, he said, noting that he recently read the anti-Islamic “literature” that was circulating prior to the Crusades in the Middle Ages.
“It seems like exactly the same rhetoric,” Enchassi said. “Infidels. Infidel Muslims. Brutal people … for the most part the hateful words are still the same.”
Talking about the Sharia law bill from a few years ago, Soltani said the Sharia issue has been a bone of contention for fundamentalist Christians in Oklahoma for some time now.
“We were the first state where (anti-Sharia law efforts) successfully passed and we were the first state to successfully challenge it and win.”
And it’s not only in Oklahoma, other states have gone after Sharia as well.
“It is a nationwide thing,” Soltani said. “It always seems to be a hot topic because people don’t know what it is.”
“We try to educate. We don’t have the massive airwaves that Fox News has,” Soltani said.
Sharia, Soltani said, is not so much a law as it is a moral code governing how Muslims live their lives.
As for the anti-Sharia efforts of recent years, Enchassi says it is flatout bigoted and racist Islamophobia cloaked in such a way as to be palatable for voters while making Muslims second-class citizens.
“It was a way to create an atmosphere of hate amongst the masses,” Enchassi said. “I would assume … but a State Question like 755 and I look at it and my holy book is mentioned, my prophet is mentioned, my faith is mentioned. Surely this is not legal? And sure enough a federal judge looked at it and within a day put a halt to it because of the specific nature of it.”
And Oklahoma’s political leaders have not been helping much. Within a couple of days of our meeting, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, a pro-Christian, right-wing Republican, “all but accused President Barack Obama … of promoting Islam while ‘suppressing our Judeo-Christian values,’” according to The Huffington Post.
In the article, Inhofe says, from the Senate floor, the following: “Oklahomans regularly ask me – and I don’t really think this is unique just to Oklahoma, I think it can be in almost any state – but how they regularly ask me why we have an administration that suppresses our Judeo-Christian values while praising Islam.”
CAIR-OK, meanwhile, responded to Inhofe’s offensive statements, writing in a release late last week: “As an elected official, you represent all the diverse peoples of Oklahoma, which includes adherents of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In recent years we have seen growth in cooperation among Abrahamic faiths in our state and country, and we fear your remarks set us back as we seek to increase cooperation between faiths.”
“It’s bothersome when someone like Rep. Sally Kern or Sen. Inhofe and many others in Oklahoma stand up and say ‘This is a Christian nation,’ said Soltani, a Kansas born-and-raised Muslim. “Or, as Inhofe said, ‘Our country was founded under the Christian god,’ when clearly our country doesn’t represent that.”
Soltani offered information showing how one of our Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, envisioned our country embracing not only Judaism and Christianity but Islam, too.
“But we tend to forget that,” Soltani said. “We tend to focus on Judeo-Christian values and Islam is not part of the equation.”
Back to the issues surrounding Sharia law, Enchassi said that even as a respected imam with two doctorates, Sharia, a word translated from Arabic meaning “fresh, gushing water,” is a concept not always easy to grasp, even in our modern era.
Said Enchassi: “We’re talking about 13 centuries of law that evolved from Medina all the way to Europe that has, over 13 centuries been defined and redefined and redefined and redefined. And for someone in southeast Oklahoma to come and bring me a book and say ‘this is what Sharia law is,’ I was like ‘Really? Let me see it.’”
The imam continued.
“We’re people who love the United States Constitution and we live by it. It’s as simple as that. We are not advocating anything other than the Constitution of the United States,” Enchassi said. “The Constitution is designed to protect everybody. We (as Muslims) are happy to live by the Constitution of the United States.”