OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Muslims flocked to the state Capitol on Monday to get to know their lawmakers and learn more about government.
In a surprise move, Gov. Kevin Stitt stepped into the Senate chamber to greet them during one of the sessions.
It was the first time a governor had visited the group since the Oklahoma Muslim Day at the Capitol program started five years ago, said Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma.
“Gov. Kevin Stitt was walking the halls and noticed the group meeting and went to welcome them and introduce himself,” said Donelle Harder, a Stitt spokeswoman. “Every Oklahoma group goes to great lengths to organize trips to the Capitol. The governor does his best to welcome any group in which his schedule permits. He is committed to being a governor for all 4 million Oklahomans.”
The event drew fewer protesters than in prior years, when Muslims entering the Capitol were yelled at and called terrorists by protesters carrying signs decrying Islam.
Soltani noted that former Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, a vocal critic of CAIR and Islam, is no longer in office. Bennett chose not to run again.
That acknowledgement from Soltani drew some applause from the group.
Soltani said he has seen a difference at the Capitol in the past five years.
“Love and peace will win over hate and animosity,” he said.
Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, welcomed the group to “your house, the people’s house.”
She took issue with one protester’s sign that said Islam is not a religion. She called it hateful and a sign of ignorance.
“On the other side of hate, there is hope,” she said, thanking the group for coming to the Capitol.