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OKC religous leaders urge greater understanding

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- On Thursday, October 29 the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK), held a meeting to discuss the rise of Islamophobia and opposing organized hate.

The gathering was held on the grounds of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City and included a panel of local leaders who made statements and also responded to questions from the attendees.

The panel  was moderated by Adam  Soltani, the executive director of CAIR Oklahoma and panelists Imam Imad Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City; Don Martin, an Oklahoma City police officer; psychologist Neal Jacobs, who is also the vice president of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma; Ryan Kiesel, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma (ACLU-OK), Veered  Harris, the rabbi of  Temp B’Nai Israel of Oklahoma City, Pastor Aaron Bolerjack of the First Nazerene Church; Veronica Laizure, the attorney who serves as the  Civil Rights Director of CAIR Oklahoma; and Dr. Carl Rubenstein, a physician who is the director of the Oklahoma Interfaith Alliance.

The meeting began with Soltani  telling of how an anti-Muslim rally  had  been planned in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa and that his organization  decided to convene a meeting to discuss what actions could be taken to enhance the understanding of Islam and encourage greater tolerance in the Oklahoma City community. 

He also told of how any time his faith is attacked those on the panel who were of different religious persuasions stood with the Muslims. And his statement was echoed by Imam Enchassi who told of how he is probably the only Muslim leader who has ever been escorted into a capital building by two female rabbis.

He explained how that when some Oklahomans decided to protest the “Muslims at the State Capital” event that took place last year during the legislslative session, Rabbis Veered Harris and  Abby Jacobson , who was more than six months pregnant at that time, insisted on walking with him into the building as he was taunted by several of the protesters who were yelling anti-Muslim slogans at him.

Martin told of how the Oklahoma City Police Department is committed to  protecting the rights of all groups in the city when a woman in the audience asked if Muslims are willing  to condemn the actions of violent extremists who claim to be Muslims, Enchassi responded that he and his organization and virtually all Muslim entities did in fact condemn those extremists .

He said that there is an image of him standing outside Penn Square holding a sign that read “ISIS Doesn’t Represent Me”. Laizure told of how when she was at a national meeting of attorneys who are affiliated with Muslim organization they issued a statement condemning any type of violence committed in the name of Islam but that that group statement received little coverage in the media, outside of Red Dirt Report.

Dr. Rubenstein said that he did not think it was fair to call upon Muslims to make such repudiations, because members  other faiths  are not asked to disassociate themselves from people of their religious affiliation who commit such acts.

As the meeting concluded, the panelists urged those in attendance to work with others to foster greater tolerance and understanding in Oklahoma.

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Bill O'Brien

Bill O'Brien is an attorney based in Oklahoma City.

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About Red Dirt Report

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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