Afghan refugees will receive a guide book informing them of their civil rights when they settle in Oklahoma, as part of a welcome kit courtesy of a Muslim advocacy group.
Adam Soltani, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Rights-Oklahoma chapter, said his organization plans to present the “Know Your Rights” guides to Afghan refugees when they arrive.
“It’s bound to happen that some of these people are going to face some difficult circumstances,” Soltani said.
“It’s really an unfortunate necessity that we’re having to put this kind of information out there, but it has to be done.”
Representatives with the national Council on American-Islamic Relations said the guide will help combat anti-Muslim rhetoric and xenophobia being espoused by some American politicians that the Muslim leaders think incite bigotry and discrimination against the refugees.
Such incidents have occurred in various places across the country as refugees fleeing Afghanistan prepare to resettle in Oklahoma and other states.
A Kansas lawmaker described Afghan refugees as terrorists.
Several Proud Boy stickers marked as “Afghan Refugee Hunting Permits” were spotted around the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor campus after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A news outlet reported that current Proud Boys Michigan chapter members said the stickers were the handiwork of former members of the white supremacist group.
Although no set timetable is available, an estimated 1,800 refugees from Afghanistan are expected to begin arriving in the state, with some possibly coming in the next few weeks, leaders with the refugee resettlement program at Catholic Charities of Oklahoma City have said.
Warm welcome planned for Afghanistan refugees coming to Oklahoma
In addition to the guide books, CAIR-OK is preparing welcome kits for the refugees, filled with items that might be useful to the Afghans as they embark upon their lives in a new home.
Soltani said CAIR-OK has gathered copies of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, as well as prayer rugs, prayer beads and personal protection equipment like face masks, hand sanitizer and gloves. The kits also will include CAIR-OK’s guide to Muslims in Oklahoma and hygiene products.
“So really to me that welcome bag is part of the Oklahoma Standard,” Soltani said.
Meanwhile, the Afghans also will be treated to a halal meal when they arrive in Oklahoma.
After the idea of a welcome meal was suggested by Catholic Charities, Soltani reached out to the Oklahoma Muslim faith community via Facebook to raise the necessary money to make this happen.
He said about $5,000 was raised within a few hours and it will be used to provide gift cards to restaurants offering halal meals — food permissible according to Islamic law. Soltani said meals fitting the refugees’ dietary standards could be provided to them directly from the restaurants, depending on the timing of their arrival.
“We’re just so thrilled that Catholic Charities has been so supportive, has been communicating with us and given us these things that we can practically work on because we aren’t a refugee support organization. But at the same time, part of our mission is to empower the Muslim community and thus we feel its necessary to do what we can to help our brothers and sisters coming from another country,” he said.
Helping enable work
Soltani said the civil rights guide books will be available in Pashto and Dari, both official languages in Afghanistan and the most widely spoken in the beleaguered country.
He said the new guides are designed to help combat Islamophobia in recognition that the vast majority of Afghan refugees will be Muslims.
He said the guides will be important educational resources for other reasons, as well. At a basic level, they will help ensure that Afghans know their rights when dealing with law enforcement, when targeted by hate crimes, when traveling, and in school and the workplace.