“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
This past week has been one of the more challenging week’s I have seen as the director of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. One might think that after two years at the helm of this organization I would be used to seeing and hearing attacks of my faith, but this is not something one can ever really get used to. Faith is something very personal, and something I do not take for granted as there was a time in my life I was completely devoid of it. It was, in fact, settling down in Oklahoma that not only afforded me the opportunity to understand and embrace Islam, but also gave me an appreciation for all faiths through my involvement in Oklahoma’s vibrant and growing interfaith community.
I have lived my life as a Muslim in Oklahoma since I was 17-years old. Knowing, understanding, and practicing my faith has made me a better person. Not only that, it has allowed me the opportunity to become a better Oklahoman and American. My faith is what drives me to want to see my state and country be the best it can possibly be. My faith is what drives me to volunteer at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma every Ramadan, preparing meals for those in need while I am abstaining from food and drink. My faith is what drives me to work with those of other faiths in working to improve the quality of life for fellow Oklahomans, something we have done more of recently with the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma’s Beyond Coexistence programs. My faith is my motivator in seeking peace and justice in our state, our country, and our world.
I guess this is why it still comes as a surprise to me, and perhaps to many other Muslims in our state, when elected officials insist on attacking Islam and Muslims time and time again. In particular, these attacks have originated from those affiliated with the Republican party. For the past eight years, CAIR Oklahoma has defended itself, the Muslim community, and the Islamic faith from attacks from former Rep. Rex Duncan, Rep. Sally Kern, and most recently, Rep. John Bennett and his so-called Counterterrorism Caucus.
And now, with Rep. John Bennett’s most recent claims that the Qur’an calls for “non Muslims to be killed,” and Oklahomans should be “wary of Muslim Americans,” he has received backing from the chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, Dave Weston. In particular, Mr. Weston has gone so far as to say that “if local Muslims don’t like it, so be it,” and then followed it up by saying that “hopefully we can find a way to meet in the middle, and move on.”
Chairman Weston and Rep. Bennett need to understand that “meeting in the middle” assumes two things – mutual respect and compromise. With their hate-filled and bigoted attacks on the American Muslim community they have already signaled their complete lack of respect for this faith community and for the diverse Oklahoma community in general. Where exactly is the “middle” position to be found in that?
The Muslim community in Oklahoma is more than willing to engage with our elected officials on the basis of mutual respect but as proud & loyal Americans we will not overlook bigoted, un-American attacks on our faith.
Adam Soltani is the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Oklahoma City chapter.