Oklahoma Democratic leaders and some in the Muslim community have called out the Oklahoma GOP after former state lawmaker John Bennett was elected as chairman.
Bennett has faced backlash from negative comments directed toward Muslims made in recent years.
“Who you choose to follow, who you choose to lead your organization is a reflection of your values,” said Alicia Andrews, leader of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Andrews called on the Oklahoma GOP to reconsider its decision to name Bennett as chair.
“This man is a demonstrated racist, xenophobe and general bigot,” Andrews said. “He unapologetically attacked members of the Muslim community, members of the LGBTQIA-plus community and teachers.”
“This is the same person that said Islam is a cancer that needs to be cut out of America,” added Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
Soltani said his heart sunk when he heard the news about Bennett over the weekend.
“Because all these memories came rushing back to me and all the progress that I thought we had made in our state basically washed away and disappeared in front of my own eyes,” Soltani said. “This is the same individual that proposed that all Muslim mosques in the state of Oklahoma should be bulldozed. He is the same person who provided a religious questionnaire to young Muslims when they went to visit his office at the Capitol. An anti-Muslim questionnaire that asked questions such as ‘Do Muslim men beat their wives?’”
Soltani said Bennett should issue an apology to the Muslim community. He also said he’s willing to move forward.
KOCO 5 reached out to Bennett, but we were told that “he doesn’t give interviews and that the media lacks intellectual honesty.” We also reached out to the Oklahoma Republican Party but did not hear back.