OKLAHOMA CITY — Muslims gathered Thursday at the Oklahoma State Capitol to have their voices heard.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslims have been targeted by hate rhetoric and hate legislation.
“The only way to see a change in our state is to engage our elected leaders and ensure the Muslim voice is heard,” Soltani said.
Organizers said more than 100 people attended the third annual Muslim Day at the Capitol.
The group prayed in the fourth-floor rotunda before visiting legislative offices.
“I came today to practice civic duties and responsibilities,” said Imam Imad Enchassi.
CAIR Oklahoma handed out information that included an educator’s guide to Islamic religious practices, a pamphlet outlining rights and copies of the U.S. Constitution.
Abiha Taha of Edmond came with her husband and two children. She said that in the current political climate, Muslims need to learn their rights.
Increased security was present inside and outside of the building, but the event saw fewer protestors than in years past.
Members of the interfaith community far outnumbered the protestors and escorted those attending into the Capitol.
Hannah Zeidan, a 17-year-old senior at Peace Academy, an Islamic school in Tulsa, said the interfaith greeting outside of the Capitol made her feel welcome and part of the community.
“It was amazing,” she said.
Kim Roberts of Duncan wore a T-shirt with an American flag and the slogan “Muslim rights are human rights.”
Roberts said she is a pagan who supports all religions and gender identifications.
“I am here to show support for the Muslim community,” she said.
Roberts said that in some instances, the religion is very much under attack.
“The current political climate appears to facilitate and endorse behavior that is not conducive to unity,” she said.
Jim Gilles of Indiana stood in the center of the crowd of Muslims and their supporters wearing a shirt that said “Allah is Satan,” and “Muhammad is in hell.” He had a camera strapped to his chest.
He said he came to the Capitol to preach the Bible and speak against Islam.
He stood among those who carried signs that read, “We love our Muslim neighbors,” and “You belong.”
Gilles said he was heckled a little bit and received a few sneers, but was never physically threatened.
Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, chairwoman of the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, said Gilles has the right to express himself under the First Amendment.
“Let him have his fun,” she said. “If he is not careful, we will feed him.”