A state legislator received a standing ovation at a Ramadan gathering designed to promote interaction between Oklahoma Muslims and their elected leaders.

State Sen. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma City, brought the crowd of about 150 people to its feet with her passionate speech urging Muslims to get more involved in the political process.

Her keynote presentation was made at the second annual iftar dinner hosted on June 23 by the Council on American Islamic Relations-Oklahoma City chapter.

Pittman said political parties would gladly accept Muslims’ donations, but “will they teach you how to run for office when the voices that represent you no longer represent you?”

“Get involved in some type of election. Walk your neighborhoods for a candidate. March to your election board in a group. Remove the fear and run for office. If Oklahoma is to be a great state, it’s calling on you today,” Pittman said.

She and Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. George Young Sr., D-Oklahoma City, spoke before guests joined Muslims in breaking their Ramadan fast.

Adam Soltani, CAIR-OK’s executive director, said the interfaith gathering was designed to bring Muslims together with their non-Muslim friends and acquaintances during the holy month of Ramadan.

One of the five pillars, or obligations, of Islam, Ramadan commemorates the divine revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Observant Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to sunset during the month. Iftar is the meal held each evening to break the Ramadan fast.

Remarks hit home

CAIR IftarSoltani said Pittman’s remarks were in keeping with the theme of the recent dinner: “Decision 2016: Our Faith, Our Future.”

He said each of the legislators who spoke had important things to share to the interfaith crowd, but Pittman’s remarks were particularly poignant in the current political climate in which anti-Muslim sentiment seems to flourish.

“I think Senator Pittman really hit it home when she said that Muslims need to get involved in the political process, emphasizing that if you don’t get involved, things will never change,” Soltani said.

“That’s important, because the Muslim community is just exhausted from some of the hateful and bigoted statements that come from certain legislators as well as proposed legislation that targets the rights of Oklahoma Muslims.”

Meanwhile, Pittman, who is Christian, praised the Muslim community for joining in interfaith events and activities around the state.

“Our faith brings us together to have courageous conversations,” she said.

Diversity and dialogue

Young, a Baptist minister, told attendees that diversity is positive and should be championed.

“What a dull world it would be if we all acted the same, if we all looked the same,” he said. “That’s what I want to be known for, someone who stood up and said people should be included.”

Munson, the first Asian-American female to serve in the Oklahoma Legislature, said diversity — of gender, faith and ethnic background — is important in the Legislature.

She told iftar dinner attendees that her Christian faith is important to her. She shared a story about her commitment to continue dialogue with a woman in her District 85, even though the staunch Republican initially said she would not vote for Munson, a Democrat, because they didn’t agree on some issues.

Munson said she returned to the woman’s house during her second campaign, and the woman eventually called her and said she had decided to vote for Munson after their conversations.

“That’s how I see Jesus — someone who didn’t mind crossing boundaries, who didn’t mind talking to others to show love and grace,” Munson said.