The students were met with a series of prejudiced questions.
Muslim students from a range of schools in Oklahoma attempted to meet with State Representative John Bennett at the State Capitol last Thursday and were shocked at the response they received.
The three students involved, two of which are in high school and one of which attends Oklahoma City University School of Law, were attempting to meet with Bennett as a part of “Muslim Day” at the State Capitol. The event is held by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
The event is aimed at improving relations between Muslim people and government officials and drew over 200 people this year. Morning sessions were held and attendees later broke off into different groups to individually meet with legislators.
When the students approached the office assistant to inquire about seeing Rep. Bennett, they were handed a questionnaire and told that they wouldn’t be able to make an appointment until they were filled out. After looking through the questions, the three young men were appalled at what Bennett was asking them.
Nine questions on the form were lengthy paragraphs that “intentionally misinterpreted ideas [from the Koran] to try to slander Muslims,” said Anna Facci, an officer with the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR.
Among the questions were things like, “The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”
Another question asked, “The sunna of Mohammed says that Muslims must be punished for leaving Islam. Do you agree with this?”
Whether the questionnaire was to make an attempt at rooting out ‘extremists’ or to shame Muslim people for behavior that the Christian Bible permits as well, the form left the students and those they shared it with in a state of shock. Though Bennett has been known for his anti-Muslim sentiments, even unapologetically calling them a “cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out,” the students thought that Muslim Day would make the legislators more receptive.
When confronted by the Tulsa World about the distribution of the questionnaires, Bennett responded by saying,
“CANT REFUTE FACTS!” He elaborated,“According to the Qur’an, Hadith and Islamic law, a woman may indeed have physical harm done to her if the circumstances warrant, with one such allowance being in the case of disobedience. This certainly does not mean that all Muslim men beat their wives, only that Islam permits them to do so.”
The survey was written by ACT for America, which has long been labeled as an extremist group, or a fringe organization, that has been gaining traction because Stephen K. Bannon, the former executive chairman of Breitbart, often published articles written by ACT for America’s founder. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former national security adviser before being exposed for potential illegal relations with Russia, is also on ACT’s board of advisers.
Adam Soltani, the executive director of CAIR Oklahoma, denounced the statements made in the survey and said in a video,
“First of all, [the statements are] completely false.” He added, “Second of all, nobody should be vetted with stupid, Islamophobic, hateful, bigoted questions before they can meet with their representative.”
Soltani wants to hold Bennett accountable for his use of the survey, but Facci pointed out that Bennett was the exception among Republican and Democrat legislators that reacted positively to Muslim Day.
‘This continues to remind folks that there’s still more work to be done,” Facci said. “It helps our community find strength and solace [knowing that] Rep. Bennett stood alone in his opposition to our community on Thursday. There were definitely more representatives and senators in support of us.”
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