Leaders in Oklahoma’s Muslim community said Wednesday tensions have risen since last week’s election, but so have signs of support.
Members of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the election of Donald Trump as president and the re-election of state Rep. John Bennett were disappointing results because of the rhetoric both candidates have used against the Muslim faith.
“(The election) was definitely a disappointment and we have seen an increase in anti-Muslim discrimination and harassment, and even hate crimes in our own state,” said Veronica Laizure, a civil rights director with CAIR. “But since last Tuesday, we have been getting dozens of positive messages and phone calls.”
Laizure said her organization has seen an increase in donations and individuals of all faiths seeking to volunteer. She and other Muslim leaders visited the state Capitol on Wednesday to voice their opposition to anti-Islamic rhetoric.
Newly elected state lawmakers were sworn into office on Wednesday, including Bennett, who recently hosted a legislative study on the threat of “radical Islam.” Bennett, R-Sallisaw, has referred to Islam as an enemy to the American way of life and has publicly referred to CAIR as a terrorist group “here to destroy us.”
Members of CAIR were joined Wednesday by non-Muslim supporters, including The Rev. John Borrego, a priest of The Episcopal Church, who said his faith requires him to defend religious minority groups.
“It horrifies me that people who identify themselves as Christians feel that smears and attacks on Muslims is something their religion requires them to do,” Borrego said. “I think it’s shameful.”
Since the Nov. 8 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center has reported an increase in the number of crimes against minorities and immigrants.
Trump has not publicly spoke about proposed policies related to Muslim immigration since be became president-elect, but members of his transition team, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback, told Reuters a database of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries is something that could be brought back by a Trump administration.
“There is a lot of concern about what the future holds for us,” said Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR’s Oklahoma’s chapter. “Particularly if Donald Trump will hold to a lot of his rhetoric that has been leading up to the election, including banning Muslims from our own country or requiring Muslims to register in a national database.”
Laizure said her concern for the future is joined by her optimism that the community will stand up to persecution against any minority group.
“On the one hand, we have people who are afraid that their community might be under attack,” Laizure said. “But on the other hand, we have a lot of people in the community saying this is our time to get active.”