On Oct. 25, Muslim Oklahomans were reminded once again that our state remains a hotspot of defamatory and disparaging rhetoric.
In an interim study presented to the House Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee, State Rep. John Bennett asserted American leaders’ obligation to understand “radical Islam and how American citizens are being radicalized here in Oklahoma as well as the rest of America.” In front of representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other members of the Muslim community, he went on to say: “The enemy is in the wire. Some of them are in this room today.”
A fellow presenter, anti-Muslim website founder and retired U.S. Marine John Guandolo, also stated that Muslim community groups and Muslim student associations on Oklahoma’s college campuses constitute a “jihadist network” in our state, reported KOSU.
The members of OU’s Muslim Student Association are not terrorists. They are not subversive radicals who intend to infiltrate our university and society. They are part of a vibrant, active university community spearheading an upcoming Unity Conference at OU, along with the Iranian Cultural Association, Black Student Association, Hispanic American Student Association and Student Government Association.
OU MSA’s members have supported CAIR’s efforts to mobilize Muslim voters, holding events on campus to encourage nonpartisan political participation. They have brought their stunningly diverse array of cultural and religious celebrations to campus, despite the threat of retaliation from bigots like Guandolo and Rep. Bennett. OU’s Muslim Student Association is not a radical jihadist group. We reject efforts to paint them as such.
It is both puzzling and dangerous to stridently associate groups like CAIR and OU’s Muslim Student Association with radical terror. Of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. since 2014, only threeinvolved a suspect related to or motivated by “radical Islam,” according to The Washington Post and the Gun Violence Archive. The rest? Often perpetrated — at an alarming rate — by white men, according to CNN and Mother Jones.
There is a conversation to be had surrounding mass shootings and political violence in the U.S. However, based off statistical analysis, there is no reason to consider Muslims disproportionate antagonists. Would Guandolo welcome comparisons between himself and Frank Roque, Jim David Adkisson or the Ku Klux Klan? He most likely would not, and such correlations are never reflexively invoked to begin with.
When acts of terror are even tangentially connected to radical Islam, mainline faithful are forced to defend their religious and cultural aversion to violence. The same is never asked of other groups.
If there is any small hope to be gained from this incident, it is the outpouring of support the Muslim community has received from citizens across our state and nation. As allies, we cannot speak for them; we can only speak in solidarity with them and hope that this expression motivates those who have as yet remained silent to stand up and speak out.
Words matter. They have the power to heal and build bridges, as the Muslim Student Association’s efforts have demonstrated so clearly on our campus. Words also have the power to wound. They have the power to perpetuate ignorance and even incite violence. Rep. Bennett and Guandolo’s words do not inspire kindness, compassion or decency, and they have no place on our campus or in our state.