Members of Oklahoma’s Islamic faith community received different greetings as they returned to the state’s seat of government Thursday for a day of advocacy and prayer.

Participants of the eighth annual Muslim Day at the Capitol were treated to warm words of welcome from the interfaith community, while a handful of protesters also offered greetings, urging the faith group to reject Islam to save their souls.

The dire warnings of the protesters did nothing to damper the excitement of participants, particularly when they welcomed Afghan refugees to the state.

In one of the more poignant moments of the day, Rep. Mauree Turner, D-Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s first Muslim, nonbinary legislator, presented a citation of welcome and appreciation for Afghan refugees to Feroz Bashari, Ph.D., who accepted on behalf of the 1,800 Afghan refugees who are being resettled in the state.

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Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter, said Bashari and his family were among several Afghan refugees who attended Thursday’s event, and the Basharis also had the distinction of being the last Afghan refugees to arrive in Oklahoma City as part of Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City’s resettlement program.

Soltani said it was only fitting that they were a part of the day of advocacy and accepted the special citation.

“We wanted to ensure that representatives of the Afghan community were here and that they felt the love and support not only from their fellow Muslims but also of their senators and representatives and all their elected leaders so they can tell this to their fellow Afghans within this growing community, and they can know that they belong here, that they’re part of the fabric of our state, that we love them and we support them as they build the foundation for their future,” he said.

CAIR-OK has hosted Muslim Day at the Capitol over the years, and Soltani said the eighth annual event was a symbol of how far Oklahoma Muslims have come in embracing their right to engage with their elected leaders about matters important to them and their communities. The 2020 Muslim Day at the Capitol was held in late February, preceding the COVID shutdown by a few weeks. The event was held virtually in 2021 due to the COVID pandemic, and Soltani said participants seemed happy to return to the Capitol for in-person activities.