Several hundred Muslims from around the state gathered in Oklahoma City today to build community and legislator awareness of Muslim citizens.
Muslim Day began at 8 a.m. March 2 at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church with check-in and breakfast. The rest of the morning consisted of panel discussions, which covered six topics ranging from the crisis in public education to minority representation in local government.
At noon attendees had lunch, then listened to the keynote speech from Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City.
Inman first spoke about health care, public education, public safety and public transportation, as well as the state’s political climate. He then warned of prejudice in the state capitol, and encouraged the largely Muslim audience to participate in local politics and community engagement.
Inman said some in the capitol may prejudge constituents based on appearance or ideology.
“When they do that, they automatically create a wall,” Inman said. “And they miss the most important fact. And that is, if you’re in their office, you’re an Oklahoman just like they are.”
Inman said not enough legislators set aside ideological differences and focus on shared values, but as Muslims integrate into the community and demonstrate that they hold values similar to those held by the general public, it makes it harder for legislators to discriminate against them.
“It’s a long, long, journey,” Inman said. “The arc of history is long, and it bends toward justice. And it’s bending, nationally, and it’s bending here.”
Following Inman’s speech, the audience left the church and headed to the Oklahoma Capitol building.
As Muslim Day attendees arrived at the Capitol entrance, they were welcomed by roughly 125 people brandishing signs with positive messages and shouting words of encouragement to each new arrival.
In 2015, attendees of the first Muslim Day at the Capitol were greeted by a crowd of protesters, said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Only one protester was present this year, loudly insulting Muslims from behind the cheering crowd outside.
Inside the Capitol, attendees then began to gather around the atrium on the fourth floor of the rotunda.
Shortly after 1 p.m., Mikael Bryant, board member of CAIR, sang the Zuhr Prayer that Muslims observe every day at 1 p.m. Imam Imad Enchassi of Oklahoma City then led nearly two dozen men in repeated prostration on prayer carpets. Behind them on the other side of the atrium, roughly the same amount of women followed suit.
After the prayer finished, Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, presented Soltani with a citation issued by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, formally commending CAIR for its work in the community.
It was awarded to CAIR “For their work in fostering the causes of peace, understanding, and better community relations in the Great State of Oklahoma and for the pride and patriotism they display towards these United States of America and the Great State of Oklahoma,” according to the citation.
Attendees then dispersed to tour the building and meet with their legislators, many of whom were absent. Some attendees left signed notes with representatives’ secretaries.
In final remarks at 3 p.m., Enchassi encouraged members of the Muslim community to remain positive and practice their faith — to be, as Soltani said earlier, “unapologetically Muslim.”