A Muslim advocacy group is hosting a town hall meeting in Oklahoma City to discuss “Islamophobia” and to encourage dialogue and partnerships aimed at dispelling hate mongering in the community.
Just a few days later, many Muslims across the state will open the doors of their mosques to non-Muslims during what is being described as the first-ever “Statewide Open Mosque Day.”
Several Muslim leaders said the timing for the two events is coincidental but both are aimed at sharing facts about Islam and sharing dialogue with the community-at-large.
Sheryl Siddiqui, spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, a coalition of Oklahoma mosques, said when presidential candidates speak ill about Islam — and don’t bother to apologize for it — Muslims must stand up and correct misconceptions about their religion now more than ever.
“We thought this was a good way for the Muslim community to get their news out. It’s a chance to tell our story about who we are,” Siddiqui said about “Open Mosque Day” on Nov. 1.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter, said the group’s town hall meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City’s Mercy Mission Building, 3840 N St. Clair.
He said the idea for event, entitled “#HateFreeOKC: Islamophobia and Our Community,” came during a brainstorming session with leaders of other faiths who wanted to come up with a way to counter events that foster hate such as the anti-Muslim protests that were rumored to be planned in Edmond, Oklahoma City and other cities around the country a few weeks ago.
Soltani said the gathering will include a panel of speakers representing various faith traditions and community organizations such as the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, the ACLU of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Police Department.
He said organizers are encouraging people to join the discussion to ask their questions, have their concerns addressed, and hopefully leave the night more informed regarding Islam and how Oklahomans can work together to keep Oklahoma City “hate free.”
“I’m really hoping that people will leave enlightened regardless of their background and that we come up with a solution for challenging hate against minority groups and organized hate organizations,” Soltani said.
Six mosques to open doors
Meanwhile, Siddiqui said six mosques across the state, including houses of worship in Oklahoma City and Edmond, will open their doors for Open Mosque Day.
The participating mosques include: the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, Masjid Mu’min, Islamic Society of Edmond, Islamic Society of Tulsa, American Muslims’ Association of Lawton and Islamic Society of Stillwater.
Siddiqui said each mosque has created a theme for the events and will offer free talks and lectures about Islam, food and a question-and-answer session. She said many mosques will offer activities for children and some, such as the expanding Islamic Society of Stillwater, will offer visitors a tour of their facility.
Siddiqui, a retired registered nurse, said the concept for Open Mosque Day was borrowed from regional mosques in Southern California who have conducted such open houses. She said some mosques in Chicago have also borrowed the concept.
She said Muslim leaders thought the open houses would be a good idea because they have seen throughout the country that some non-Muslims find it easier to “believe horrible things about Islam rather than the truth.”
She said in addition to dispelling myths and stereotypes about Islam, the Nov. 1 events are a way for Oklahoma Muslim to challenge anti-Muslim sentiments purported recently by presidential candidates.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson, both Republican candidates for the presidency, have made comments about Islam and Muslims in recent weeks. Carson said a Muslim should not be president, while Trump said American mosques should be closed.
Siddiqui said many Oklahoma Muslims are good members of the community and help to make the cities in which they live better “and yet this is what we’re getting from our public officials.”
Open Mosque Day, she said, “is ultimately a way to promote understanding and to lower the level of anxiety in our state concerning Muslims.”