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Facing the fear of Islam in Oklahoma

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Adam Soltani is executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma.
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Guest columnist

Posted: September 24, 2013

OKLAHOMA CITY -- According to the author Rush Dozier, in his book Fear Itself, "Fear is derived from the Old English word for danger. The emotion of fear has evolved to move us away from danger."

Therefore, it would make perfect sense that those that live in fear of anything would want to remove themselves, their families, and all they cared about far away from this perceived danger.

Fear is a natural human emotion, and used wisely can protect us from pain, suffering, and potential threats. Used in the wrong way, however, fear can become a catalyst for the spread of misinformation, outcasting members of our own society, and ignorant hatred of others.

In the state of Oklahoma, the fear of Islam has been the cause of many of the aforementioned problems, in addition to hate-crimes and wasted tax-dollars. It is time that we come face-to-face with our fear of Islam and Muslims in the state of Oklahoma and question the legitimacy of those that claim we must fear an entire faith and its adherents

Before we take a further look at this atmosphere of fear and, at times hysteria, surrounding Islam in Oklahoma, let's take a look at some facts. According to a Pew Research Center article published June 7, 2013, there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world accounting for 23 percent of the world's population and making Islam the second-largest religion in the world.

In addition, Islam is one of three Abrahamic-faith traditions along with Christianity and Judaism. It baffles one to think that the second-largest religion in the world should be something that we, as a state, should fear. If anything, the rest of the world should be more scared than the state of Oklahoma, as our small population of an estimated 30,000 Muslims pales in comparison to most other locales. Nevertheless, we have found overwhelming support for the manufactured fear of Islam in the heartland, one that would be better termed as Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is not a new idea or concept, rather one that has existed for more than twenty years, being introduced in 1991 in the Runnymede Trust Report and defining Islamophobia as an "unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.

From this very definition, it is clear that Islamophobia is a social problem, much like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and other issues that prove as a threat to peaceful coexistence, and only seek to create division and confusion in society. Oklahoma has been afflicted by this social problem, one that should be of concern to all those that value the well-being and betterment of our state.

At its worst, Islamophobia has divided Oklahomans and caused mass confusion about Islam and Muslims in our state through the proposal of an anti-Shariah amendment also known as the "Save Our State" amendment and State Question 755.

This unfounded hostility towards Islam led our legislature to propose an amendment, besides being hateful, that was proven to be unconstitutional. The author of the bill, the former Oklahoma Rep. Rex Duncan, obviously had some ignorant bias towards the religion when, in 2007, he rejected a gift of the Quran from an Oklahoma governor's council, stating that "most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology."

Not only did Duncan's ill-advised move lead to the public demonization of a religion and its adherents, but it also pushed our state into a three-year long battle of which we still do not know the financial impact on our tax dollars.

All of this, in an attempt, to push forward the Islamophobic agenda of individuals such as Brigitte Gabriel, who falsely claim that "under sharia law, women have few rights compared to men, freedom of speech is severely curtailed and freedom of religion is limited or nonexistent."

Gabriel, accoding to a recent report on Islamophobia from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), once told the Australian News that "every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim."

Islamophobia is a social disease that has, and will continue to have, its negative impact on our society here in Oklahoma, and elsewhere in our country, if we do not do something about it.

Recently in Oklahoma City there has been a growing movement to move beyond coexistence and understand and respect one another on a level deeper than toleration demands. The problem with the case of Islamophobia in our state is that it does not even allow room for toleration, let alone understanding on any level beyond toleration.

Relatively few organizations have done much to confront the fear of Islamophobia in the state of Oklahoma, however, many have done their fair share of pushing forward the Islamophobic agenda in our state. Isn't it time, we as Oklahomans, learn that we can disagree without being disagreeable and move beyond intolerance in our state?

--END--

CAIR-OK's Adam Soltani was recently featured in two Red Dirt Report stories:

"CAIR-OK addresses new report on the extent of Islamophobia in Oklahoma and the U.S."

And "CAIR-OK's 1st Annual Soldiarity and Peace Rally 'moves beyond coexistence."

And for more information on CAIR-Oklahoma go to www.ok.cair.com.

Copyright 2013 Red Dirt Report

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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