OKLAHOMA CITY – The Muslim community is looking for help from an Oklahoma state lawmaker who has called the religion “a cancer on our nation.”

“We can all come together and work for a greater good and a worthy cause,” said Basheer Shakir. “Maybe it’s an opportunity for others, regardless of our faiths, to come together and honestly and openly talk about what our faiths are about.”

State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) made headlines two weeks ago with a controversial questionnaire that asked questions like “Do you beat your wife?” and “How can orthodox followers of Mohammed possibly co-exist with non-Muslims?”

Other questions asked about killing members of other religions and underage marriages, but the most bothersome query for Shakir is domestic violence.

“We were kind of shocked that anyone would think that someone would support something like that,” he said. “I think it strikes a nerve with Muslims because Muslims and Islam have a very high respect for women. Some of the most important figures in Islam are women. And, it’s so contrary to our daily lives, to what we believe and who we are.”

So, days later, Shakir formulated his response: action.

He started a web page to raise money for tote bags, to donate to the YWCA and victims of domestic abuse.

Each bag will be stocked with essential supplies for women and families who may not be able to grab much as they flee an abusive situation.

Within 12 hours, Shakir had raised his $2,500 goal.

So, he upped it and exceeded it once again.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the page has raised more than $7,300 – not including about $4,000 in baby formula donations.

The American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City will host a public event Apr. 1 to package more than 500 tote bags.

Bennett is invited.

“We want him to know that we have the support of fellow Oklahomans,” said Asiya Shakir, Basheer’s wife. “We’re not alone in doing this. He may find, at the end of this event, that when he sees how much love we have that we are not a cancer, as he’s referred to us in the past.”

For more information on the Totes of Love event, click here.

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