United in solidarity with Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 34 individuals and groups have come together as an interfaith coalition to denounce the rising cases of Islamophobia in America, some of which is pushed by leading candidates running for president of the United States.
CAIR-OK’s Executive Director Adam Soltani, accompanied by other local faith leaders and activists, began the press conference by explaining how CAIR and others are “deeply troubled” that two Republican presidential candidates – Donald Trump and Ben Carson, specifically – have spread hatred and fear-mongering against Muslims – rhetoric, which in the past has led to the vandalism of mosques, death threats and hate crimes against Muslims.
“Islam is a religion of peace,” Soltani said. “Islam is a religion of mercy and compassion. And these individuals, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson, have only lent their voices to propagating Islamophobia through their hateful and divisive rhetoric.”
Trump did not denounce anti-Muslim comments from a supporter at a recent rally and Carson has said a Muslim cannot be president, among other anti-Muslim comments.
And with Donald Trump scheduled to be at the Oklahoma State Fair on Friday, growing numbers of people are concerned about the hate speech coming from the real-estate tycoon who is running for president. In fact, a counter-rally – #DumpTrump and #Trump IsNotOK – is being organized outside the State Fairgrounds by the Hispanic Dream Act Oklahoma –OKC organization.
Directing this message specifically to Trump, Soltani said: “We will not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry, or hateful and divisive remarks in our state.”
CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)
Soltani echoed other voices in the room when he said America is a far better place than the one Trump and his ilk convey.
“Mr. Trump, if you seek this office, you must reflect the true America,” Soltani said, noting that this country is diverse and pluralistic.
Imam Dr. Imad Enchassi, with the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, played for the media a 22-second phone recording of someone who called him saying Muslims are “not wanted here” and it was time for them to “get out of our country.”
“We’re tired of you people trying to take over the world,” the man’s voice says, as Enchassi looks stone-faced. “You are not a faith of
“By the way, this is the nicest message I could find to share with you without vulgar language,” Enchassi said, adding that he played it for members of the media and for readers and viewers at home to better understand what it is to be in his shoes, as a Muslim in America.
“The politics of fear create a hostile environment, not just for Muslims but for any minority in our state,” added Enchassi, who noted the recent and outrageous arrest of Irving, Texas 14-year old Ahmed Mohamed, a Muslim whose homemade clock was thought to be a bomb.
Enchassi also said, regarding Trump, that his comments are “racist, bigoted and xenophobic.”
Ersin Demirci, executive director of The Dialogue Institute of Oklahoma City, said any candidate who seeks to be president should “drop the hateful and divisive comments” from their speeches.
Noel Jacobs, with the Interfaith Alliance Foundation of Oklahoma, said they “stand in support of the Muslim community,” and says “negative rhetoric,” including that of elected officials or those seeking public office, “must seek and understand” all people in America’s diverse community of believers.
Many of the speakers denounced the odious comments coming from the likes of Trump and other presidential aspirants in the public eye.
“We need our presidential candidates to be role models, not fearmongers,” said The Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
Veronica Laizure, the civil-rights director for CAIR-OK and an Asian-American, said American Muslims are facing increasing discrimination shows that religious pluralism, on which this country was founded, is not being truly embraced.
“No American Muslim – or any other person for that matter – should have their ‘Americanness’ questioned simply on the basis of their religion, the color of their skin, or the simple fact of making their voice heard,” Laizure said.
Veronica Laizure is the civil-rights director for CAIR-OK. (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)
Dwain Pellebon, with the Ending Violence Everywhere Coalition, said these politicians on the right absolutely understand that pandering to a fear-filled “base” keeps the money flowing to their political campaigns.
“They know their remarks will solidify a base so they can maintain power,” Pellebon said.
“Violence and hatred is not part of the American dream,” added Pellebon, an African-American. “It is immoral for a person running for the president of the United States to claim that others who are different by race, faith, color, socio-economic status, or gender are inferior or less than, or are less American than any other.”
Red Dirt Report asked Soltani if the Oklahoma Republican Party has publicly repudiated the anti-Muslim statements coming from top GOP presidential candidates. Soltani responded by saying that after party leaders ignored last year’s Islamophobic statements by State Rep. John Bennett, they are looking for the OK GOP to take a stand, but have yet to hear anything.
“We have hope, but it’s very little hope at this point,” Soltani said.