Oklahoma Council of American Islamic Relations Director Razi Hashmi told the members of that organization at their third annual dinner last week that many Muslims came to this state seeking a better life. And on the whole, he said, they have succeeded in that endeavor.

Hashmi reminded them that the more than 30,000 Muslims now found throughout Oklahoma are physicians, attorneys, engineers, professors and successful business people. There is now a second generation of Muslims who have been raised in Oklahoma and are pursuing careers here. Hashmi, who is the son of a thoracic surgeon who came to Oklahoma decades ago from Pakistan, is among that group.

Young men who are members of Islamic student associations from the campuses of Oklahoma City University and the University of Central Oklahoma served as ushers at the event.

The CAIR director spoke of recent surveys done by several polling firms that indicate followers of Islam are among the most affluent and educated members of American society.

He also spoke of a verse from the Koran that mandates, “As such as do not fight against you on account of faith, and neither drive you from your homelands, God does not forbid you to show them kindness and to behave towards them with full equity, for verily, God loves those who act equitably.” In accordance with that instruction, Hashmi explained how his organization has built alliances with others in the state and nation to create better understanding of Islam and to protect the civil liberties of all citizens.

He also spoke of how President Obama is reaching out to the Muslim world. A variety of political leaders and government officials were in attendance. A proclamation issued by Gov. Brad Henry that lauded the work done by CAIR in Oklahoma was on display as well. Prayers and recitations from the Koran were given by the leaders of the Islamic Associations of Lawton and Ardmore.

The keynote speaker at the event was former Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois, who told the gathering that at the age of 86 his health has deteriorated, but that his thirst for justice remains strong. He said that he was proud to address a gathering of the Muslims of Oklahoma and that he knew those present were proud to be Muslims and proud to be Oklahomans.

The former lawmaker lamented the amount of misunderstanding there is in this country about Muslims and their faith, and he urged the attendees to reach out to their neighbors of other religions in the state. During his tenure in Congress there were no members of that body who were Muslims, and he said that he was glad that he had lived to see the election of the first Muslim congressman, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, several years ago.

Decades ago, Findley authored a letter in which he pointed out that Islam, Christianity and Judaism are related, and that Muslims revere both the New Testament and the Torah. Copies of that document were given to the attendees and Findley urged them to distribute them to their friends, neighbors and co-workers.

The former lawmaker deplored the false statements about Islam that are often repeated in the media, and he urged the gathering to contact the media outlets that make them and to request retractions.

Dr. Imad Enchassi, the Imam of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, also addressed the group, and told them that as followers of Islam they had a commitment to social justice and that “if you sleep on a full belly while your neighbor is hungry you are not a Muslim.”

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.