Mikael Deems Bryant, an Enid native, Muslim and board member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told an Enid civic club his organization wants to help educate people.
Bryant spoke Friday to Enid Noon AMBUCS about what CAIR is, Islam and Muslims, and answered some questions from members during the meeting.
“We think this is important to all Oklahomans to learn more about Islam, and I really appreciate and commend you all for inviting us out, “Bryant said. “We can come to you, we can come to your business, anywhere in Oklahoma, (provide) educational resources, give you support, anything you need, we’re happy to help.”
CAIR’s mission “is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding,” according to its website.
“CAIR Oklahoma is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for religious liberty and tries to educate people about especially MKuslims and their religion to foster tolerance and to foster a conversation that can hopefully lead to more peace and tolerance for everyone,” Bryant said.
All of CAIR’s funding comes from the local Muslim community, which comprises of about 35,000 Oklahomans, one percent of the population, Bryant said.
“Out of that one percent, that one percent of the population has a great financial impact. In the Oklahoma City area alone there are more than 300 Muslim physicians,” Bryant said.
The Muslim community in Oklahoma City also has opened a free clinic for anyone of any religion and background, he said.
Bryant also discussed some of the violence and discrimination Muslims and other individuals mistaken for Muslims have faced, as well as murdersin Oklahoma in recent years.
After talking about CAIR and the Muslim community in the state, Bryant spent some time discussing the basics of Islam, and common misunderstandings or controversial thoughts about the religion. This information he discussed also is available on CAIR’s website, https://www.cair.com/.
When the time for questions came, one man in the audience expressed his concerns and observance of Muslims not condemning terrorism going on around the world.
Bryant said one reason many aren’t hearing about that is the news media’s portrayal of Muslims and Islam.
“In fact Muslims have stood out in scores, they’ve had demonstrations, there have numerous religious (articles) published in major publications, but you’re not going to hear about it on the 5 o’cock news unfortunately,” he said.
Another member in attendance asked about the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam. Bryant talked about some of the key differences, and how Sunni Muslims comprise of more than 80 percent of the Muslim population.
“There’s almost 2 billion Muslims in the world, and if the majority of them believed in committing violence … there would be no peace anywhere,” Bryant said.
Another question from an AMBUCS member was about discrimination Bryant and his wife — along with other Muslims — face in the United States.
“It’s a dangerous time and that’s why I’m here, and that’s why I’m glad you invited me, so that we can have a discussion and try to see how we can all come together,” Bryant said.
A woman asked if the terrorist group ISIS is islamic. Bryant replied that ISIS claims to be.
“They do not represent anything about Islam, and everything they do is not Islamic, and preachers across the spectrum have all said the same thing,” he said.
Bryant also said he doesn’t blame people for being scared, based off what they have been seeing in the news, and that CAIR is trying to educate people and inform them about Islam and Muslims.
At the end of the program, Kegan Tuohy, president-elect of Enid Noon AMBUCS, said he had multiple AMBUCS members call him and tell him to cancel the program.
“I had two club members tell me not to do this program. I had somebody call me and tell me to cancel it. I had people that were upset at me for doing this,” Tuohy said. “Let’s not forget that as a civic club we give back to the community, but in addition to that we meet here for quality programs and we’re here to learn something new and expand our minds.”