Several organizations have voiced their objections to an Oklahoma legislator’s proposal for an interim study on “Radical Islam, Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process.”
An open letter from various groups was recently sent to Oklahoma Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman asking him to reject State Rep. John Bennett’s request for the interim study.
The organizations opposing Bennett’s request include the Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City, Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma, Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa, Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice, Oklahoma Conference of Churches, Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, Jewish Federation of Tulsa, Respect Diversity Foundation and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.
Bennett’s request for Interim Study H16-029 states that “this will be a study of the current threat posed by radical Islam and the effect that Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist indoctrination have in the radicalization process in Oklahoma and America.”
“Few people have forgotten the tragic beheading and attempted beheading in Moore, Oklahoma. In light of the previous terrorist attack at Fort Hood and subsequent terrorist attack in San Bernadino, among others, there is a growing concern about the safety of Oklahoma citizens,” the interim study request continues.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Council of Churches, said the groups opposing Bennett’s proposed study see it as the legislator’s way to once again stereotype Muslims and attack their Islamic faith. Previously, Bennett, R-Sallisaw, has made anti-Muslim/Islam comments that drew attention and concern from several of the same groups voicing opposition to his proposed study.
“So what we have done is drafted a letter that respectively asks that the request be denied,” Tabbernee said.
In their letter to Hickman, the coalition of organizations said they believe the study would be “fiscally irresponsible, potentially counterproductive and ultimately unnecessary.”
“Ideally, we would like to see the proposal to conduct Interim Study H16-029 denied; federal funds used to investigate matters of national security; and our local, non-governmental resources used to better educate our community about Islam and about our local Muslim community’s strong partnership in supporting a peaceful, safe Oklahoma,” the letter states.
The entire letter reads as follows:
Dear Speaker Hickman:
We, the undersigned, represent a wide array of faith communities in Oklahoma. We are contacting you because we are very concerned about Representative Bennett’s proposed Interim Study H16-029, which we believe to be fiscally irresponsible, potentially counterproductive, and ultimately unnecessary.
We respectfully ask that the request for this interim study be denied, as we do not believe it is in the best interest of the state during this difficult budgetary time in Oklahoma. The proposed interim study concerns issues that are already being studied under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government. It would be fiscally irresponsible to duplicate such studies by using Oklahoma’s already overextended funds. Moreover, there is ample research already available on radicalization: exploring its roots, the threat it poses to our nation, and how to counter it effectively. Current research also shows that Islamic radicalization is neither the only, nor the largest, extremist threat we face. We could, theoretically, support the study of radicalization in all forms in Oklahoma; however, the use of state funds to focus on just one area of extremism is a misuse of our resources.
Additionally, focusing on possible radicalization within only one group may be counterproductive and encourage the very radicalization intended to prevent. Therefore, if you deem that state funds should be used to duplicate research that already exists or is being undertaken nationally, we want to stress the importance of investigating all types of radicalization as well as committing funds for programming designed to foster connectedness and prevent radicalization in the future. The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies 17 different hate groups in Oklahoma, including adherents of a variety of ideologies, religions, and backgrounds. We believe that all these organizations need to be part of any meaningful analysis of how to understand and counter radical extremists.
Ideally, we would like to see the proposal to conduct Interim Study H16-029 denied; federal funds used to investigate matters of national security; and our local, non-governmental resources used to better educate our community about Islam and about our local Muslim community’s strong partnership in supporting a peaceful, safe Oklahoma. We would be pleased to provide such resources on request.
Mr. Ersin Demirci
Dialogue Institute Oklahoma City
Dr. Carl Rubenstein
Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma
The Rev. Bob Lawrence
Interfaith Alliance of Tulsa
Mr. Moises Echeverria
Oklahoma Center for Community and Justice
The Rev. Dr. William Tabbernee
Oklahoma Conference of Churches
Ms. Edie Roodman
The Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City
Mr. Drew Diamond
The Jewish Federation of Tulsa
Mr. Michael Korenblit
Respect Diversity Foundation
The Rev. Ray Hickman
Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry