When I got to St. Luke’s Methodist Church in OKC for the morning sessions, I truly didn’t know what was even going to be talked about or the people I would see. I was blind to the culture I was going to be thrust into, and nothing could have prepared me for just how familiar and homey it would be. I walked into a room full of regular people talking, laughing, and reuniting. I had the privilege and honor of greeting many of them as they arrived. For me, it was a chance to be part of something greater; a chance to put myself in a position I had never experienced before and put my heart into it.
The day started with sessions and panel discussions regarding the law surrounding things that affect Muslims today like what the First Amendment will look like in “Trump’s America,” what it’s like to be a Muslim student today, and how the media relates to the Muslim community. Getting to watch these discussions and see members of the Oklahoma Muslim community ask questions, learn, and engage, I realized that the day was all about exactly what I want for everyone in this country: a chance to learn the political system and to determine how to best make it work in the favor and interest of those we love and care about.
What most affected and saddened me was to see the mentality that has become necessary for Muslim men and women. Every discussion seemed to be revolved around how to “defend,” “protect,” or “guard,” oneself in political or religious discussion. It has become a disgusting requirement in American culture since the events of September 11th, 2001 that every national tragedy is chalked up to Muslim activity and that Muslims are expected to explain themselves to a country that claims to be tolerant and accepting of all religions.
As the day moved on, I realized that working at CAIR has given me a perspective and a platform that I never would have had before. It has changed my thinking and my view on my responsibility as an advocate. I see now that fear, hate, and disagreement stem from not understanding each other. I found that any uncertainty I had of the Islamic community was because I had never associated with them myself and realized that they are me. The people I met during the learning sessions, the prayer at the capitol, and the time after prayer which was spent writing letters to legislators were people with aspirations, goals, and plans for themselves, their state, and their country. They were Americans who wanted to see a world where all of us get the chance to be who we are and share that in a glorious way.
For me, watching the prayer in the middle of the capitol building was a little triumph in itself. It was not only a way of rebuking every opponent but also a way of honoring the Constitution of this great country and what it stands for. I felt one with a group of people I have never known, a group I am not a member of, and a movement much bigger and more important than I. What I felt was a revolution and a stand being made in the state that I love, and that made all the difference in the Muslim Day at the Capitol for me.
My hope is that MDAC is a shining light to the changing culture, not only in this state, but in this country. I hope that, as we move into a very contentious time in our country, the spirit that I saw drive this event is shared and spread throughout the country. People, white, black, green, purple, male, female, LGBTQ+, young, old, tall, short, etc. should feel a responsibility and a desire to come together in love and in solidarity to further the values of our Constitution and allow our country to be about what I saw on March 2nd: love, solidarity, brother- and sisterhood, and, most important of all, positive change for the future.