Oklahoma Muslims and their interfaith supporters will converge Friday on the state Capitol for panel discussions and sessions aimed at promoting civic engagement within the Islamic community.
Anti-Muslim protesters might be in attendance as well.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma Chapter, said the CAIR-OK-sponsored “Muslim Day at the Capitol” will take place despite the prospect of protesters.
“I think there are some people who think that the Capitol is sponsoring it, but we are sponsoring it,” Soltani said.
He said his organization reserved the second floor rotunda and Blue Room for the day in much the same way groups such as the Oklahoma Conference of Churches sponsor events designed to engage the community in the legislative process. Soltani said the goal of Friday’s event is to teach Muslims about the democratic process and give them an opportunity to interact with some of their state legislators.
A Facebook page called “Protesting Muslim Day at the State Capitol” lists details of a planned protest by a group called Overpasses for America Oklahoma.
Soltani said CAIR-OK’s attorney has contacted Capitol Security to alert them to the protest.
The possibility of an anti-Muslim protest prompted the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma and other social justice groups and faith organizations to put out a call for volunteers to show up Friday at the Capitol to support Muslims who attend CAIR-OK’s event.
Dr. Carl Rubenstein, president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, said he especially wants to ensure that Muslims receive “friendly and safe passage into and out of the Capitol.”
Rubenstein said other groups that hope to lend support include the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance, the Respect Diversity Foundation, the Oklahoma Center for Community & Justice, Mayflower United Church of Christ and Fellowship United Church of Christ in Tulsa.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said Oklahoma Muslims should be able to hold their event, which is similar in nature to the Conference of Church’s annual day at the Legislature, set for March 23.
“All American citizens regardless of religion, race or ethnicitiy have a democratic right to visit the Capitol and participate in the political process. This includes Oklahoma’s Muslim population,” Tabbernee said.
Soltani said the groundswell of interfaith support has been reassuring.
“It’s a great thing that says love will conquer hate and there is support for pluralism and diversity in our society,” he said.
He said Muslim Day at the Capitol will end with a Jumaa (Friday) prayer gathering led by Imad Enchassi, imam and founder of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, with leaders from the interfaith community as guest speakers.
Soltani said the possibility of a protest comes as no surprise. He said a similar event held in January in Austin drew anti-Muslim protesters to the Texas State Capitol.
According to several published reports, a small group of anti-Muslim protesters showed up at the Texas State Capitol on the seventh annual Texas Muslim Capitol Day. An organizer told reporters it was the first time the Texas event has drawn a protest.