Officials from the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Tuesday said they will “seek protection” following comments from an Oklahoma lawmaker.
The group has called a news conference for 1 p.m. Wednesday in front of Oklahoma Republican Party headquarters, 4031 N Lincoln Blvd.
The move comes after a town meeting Monday night in Sallisaw where state Rep. John Bennett said he would not back down from comments he made suggesting people should be wary of Muslim Americans.
At the meeting, in front of about 85 constituents, Bennett said the Islamic faith “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.”
CAIR-Oklahoma executive director Adam Soltani said such statements are “an apparent call for a violent purge of Muslims by an elected official.”
Soltani said Bennett’s statements “must be taken seriously and should be repudiated by Oklahomans of all faiths and backgrounds.”
The goal of Wednesday’s news conference will be to “seek stepped up protection for (the) state’s Islamic community,” according to a news release from CAIR-Oklahoma.
Bennett, R-Sallisaw, has been at the center of a political maelstrom that has gained national attention since he published comments on social media warning people to be wary of Muslim Americans and then refused to apologize in the face of mounting criticism.
Asked before the meeting whether he planned to apologize for his comments, Bennett said, “No. Because I’m right, and they know I’m right.”
“CAIR used political pressure to make me back down, but I didn’t and I’m not going to,” he said to a standing ovation.
Bennett, who served in the U.S. Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he has heard from people all over the world supporting his position.
In a lengthy presentation that included videos made within U.S. mosques, Bennett outlined a history of the Islamic faith and his view that Islam is a sociopolitical movement intent upon destruction of Western civilization and world domination.
“Their goal is the destruction of Western civilization from within,” he said. “This is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.
“The media is playing right into their hands,” he said.
“We need to share His (Jesus’) story, love others and stand for freedom,” he said to loud applause.
“I love each and every one of them, but I’m not going to stand back and let them push Islam into our nation.”
He said the FBI has severed ties with the national branch of CAIR in part because the organization was alleged to be an unindicted co-conspirator in a major trial about funding terrorism.
Ibrahim Hooper, communications director of CAIR in Washington, D.C., said the unindicted co-conspirator allegation against CAIR was legal “mumbo jumbo” that came out of the Holy Land Foundation trial in 2007.
“The key word is ‘unindicted,’” Hooper said.
One attendee, Alan Beard, said he was “100 percent in agreement with what John said, and I stand behind him.”
“You just have to look at other countries like England and Australia where they’ve gotten a foothold,” Beard said.
Another listener asked how to get Islam out of school textbooks.
“Islam has no place in these United States,” she said.
Groups join protest
Also Monday, Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry released a resolution calling for Bennett and Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman David Weston to apologize for remarks that “put all Muslims in Oklahoma in one group, associating them with terrorists and encouraging fear and wariness among our citizens against other citizens.”
The resolution was signed by more than two dozen groups affiliated with the local Say No to Hate Coalition, including the Jewish Federation of Tulsa, Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, Oklahomans for Equality and several churches.
Bennett’s criticism of Islam comes when polling indicates Middle East violence and the beheading of two American journalists may be shifting U.S. public opinion against the world’s second-largest religion.