Followers of Islam filed past protesters carrying signs and voicing criticism of their religion to enter the Capitol on Friday for the Second Annual Muslim Day.
But the number of supporters from the interfaith community who lined up to shield them from taunts far outnumbered those who accused them of violence and terrorism.
Inside the building, Senior Imam Imad S. Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City met with some of the protesters to try to put their fears about Islam at ease.
“This is what we are about — dialogue,” he said, adding that those in attendance would keep repelling hate with love.
Security at the Capitol was increased for the event, which featured educational panels, lunch and an interfaith prayer service.
Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, who chairs the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, said she didn’t see the protesters because so many people from different backgrounds showed up in solidarity with those attending the event.
Mike Korenblit of Edmond held a sign that read, “We are Jewish, and we are proud to support our Muslim friends and neighbors in Oklahoma.”
“If we condemn one religion, we condemn all religions,” he said.
He said both of his parents survived the Holocaust.
“There is nothing more important than standing up and defending the rights of all,” Korenblit said. “We see what happens when that doesn’t take place.”
Verna Morris of Slaughterville said she showed up in protest “because I don’t want my grandbabies wearing rags on their heads, and it is definitely headed in that direction.”
Her daughter, Billie Little of Purcell, said if a Ten Commandments monument is not allowed at the Capitol, praying Muslims should also be prohibited.
The state last year removed a privately funded Ten Commandments monument from the Capitol grounds following a court opinion saying it violated the state Constitution ban on government support for a religion.
Jim Gilles of Evansville, Indiana, carried a large sign and wore a shirt saying, “Allah is Satan.” He said he came “to stand up for the Lord Jesus Christ and against Islam.”
Ron Young of Moore carried a sign saying that Islam was a cult. Young, who came with his wife, said he was protesting the Muslim event at “our Capitol.”
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Oklahoma, said more than 200 people attended the event, which covered matters such as civic engagement and the status of the state budget.
One of the participants was Imam John Ederer of the Islamic Society of Tulsa.
“My message is be engaged,” he said. “Be involved. Understand how the system works. Be ready to sacrifice your comfort zone so you can make a difference in making this a better state and showing the great contributions and great values that Muslims represent.”
Ederer said about half of the participants were from Tulsa.
Two of them were Dr. Kamran Abbasi and his wife, Saima Abbasi.
Dr. Abbasi said he wanted to come “to put a face to the anti-Muslim rhetoric,” and show that Muslims are contributing members of society.