On Oct. 31, state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, once again crossed the line of decency when he attacked the character of the hardworking public servants at our state’s agencies.
From the House floor, Bennett said state agencies “are telling our citizens they will reduce services to the most vulnerable. That’s terrorism. We shouldn’t be negotiating with terrorists.”
State agencies are not terrorists, but his is not the first time Bennett has used his platform as a state lawmaker to propagate lies and hatred toward fellow Oklahomans and fellow Americans — and unless something changes, it certainly won’t be the last.
A little over a year ago, I sat alongside my colleagues from CAIR Oklahoma, pastors, rabbis and imams at our state Capitol while Bennett used our precious tax dollars to attack Oklahoma’s Muslim families in an “interim study.” He spent hours repeating wild conspiracy theories about Oklahoma’s Islamic centers and children’s schools, even going so far as to attack the character of Imam Imad Enchassi and myself with the bizarre claim that we are “the two biggest terrorists in Oklahoma” and that the interfaith leaders present were “complicit” in terrorism for supporting us.
As I write this, I am tired. I am tired of trying to convince people that the imam and I are simultaneously proud practicing Muslims, U.S. citizens, registered voters and believers in the promise of America. I am tired of having to defend myself against the lies of people who don’t know me or the Muslim community. As an Oklahoman and a Muslim, I work every day to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend the right of all Americans to live and worship in their own way.
Last week, Gov. Mary Fallin was very swift in condemning Bennett’s actions as “unacceptable behavior.” She publicly called on Bennett to apologize, a courtesy our governor has never afforded Oklahoma Muslim families and children in the last four years since Bennett began his attacks on our community.
It is time for Fallin to recognize that Bennett is in clear violation of his oath of office by not supporting, obeying and defending the constitution of our state and country for all people. He has clearly stated and defended his stance that American Muslims should be removed from our nation, showing that he opposes the basic religious freedoms upon which our country was built.
Between the budget crisis, our deteriorating rural health systems and our overcrowded prisons, this state has enough challenges ahead. We absolutely do not need people like Bennett wasting our tax dollars and time to promote conspiracy theories against fellow Americans while violating his oath of office.
Oklahoma’s hardworking families deserve leaders with integrity, leaders who are not afraid to speak truth in the face of ignorance. We need elected officials with the courage to do the hard thing who are ready to stand up for liberty and justice for all. We deserve state representatives who will work toward improving the quality of life for all Oklahoma families, not leaders who will put the safety and security of families and children of religious minorities at risk.
It is far past time for Fallin to call for the resignation of those in the Legislature who have a hateful agenda and who consistently attack Oklahoma families and public servants, starting with Rep. John Bennett.
Adam Soltani is executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Oklahoma Chapter.