For Immediate Release
CAIR-OK Responds to Rep. Bennett's Islamophobic Hearing
OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma chapter of the Council onAmerican-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) today responded to comments made during an Islamophobic hearing for Interim Study H16-029, "Radical Islam, Sharia Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process."
CAIR-OK: State House Opens Hearing on "Islamic Extremists"
"Representative John Bennett is shamefully wasting taxpayer money to promote his own biased agenda," said CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani. "This hearing was a new low for Representative Bennett, as his guests presented a biased narrative that achieves nothing more than demonizing and marginalizing the Oklahoma Muslim Community."
H16-029 was proposed by Representative John Bennett (R-Sallisaw), who has been widely criticized for his open hostility toward Islam and Muslims. Most notably, Rep. Bennett has called Islam "a cancer that needs to be cut out of the nation" and has repeatedly stated that he does not consider Islam to be a religion. Rep. Bennett is currently running for re-election against Tom Stites, a local businessman, engineer, and community leader.
SEE: OK Lawmaker accused of making anti-Muslim remarks
Rep. John Bennett stands behind "threat of Islam" statements at Sallisaw Republican meeting
"Perhaps most troubling to me was Frank Gaffney's assertion that Islamic charitable giving, or zakat, is somehow funding terrorism in the United States," said CAIR-OK Government Affairs Coordinator Anna Facci. "Here in Oklahoma City, zakat money from the community funds a food bank and a free clinic in a neighborhood that is otherwise a food and resource desert. Zakat is no different than the Christian tradition of tithing, and charity and is at the very core of the Oklahoma Standard."
Among the speakers present after the hearing were Frank Gaffney, president and founder of the Center for Security Policy; John Guandolo, founder of UnderstandingtheThreat.com, an extreme anti-Muslim conspiracy theory website; and retired Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and current executive Vice President of the rabidly anti-LGBTQ Family Research Council.
"Notably absent from the testimony given at this hearing was any information on the needs of Oklahoma citizens," said CAIR-OK Civil Rights Director Veronica Laizure. "Our state needs leaders who are focused on the budget crisis, poverty, food insecurity, racial injustice, record cuts to education funding, and the countless other real problems that our communities are struggling with - not leaders that use their platform to demonize the Muslim community."
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), an organization that tracks hate groups in America, classifies the Center for Security Policy as an extremist group and describes Gaffney as "a dire threat to American democracy."
Guandolo is noted by the SPLC as "a disreputable character, who regularly attacks the U.S. government, claims that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency is a secret Muslim agent for the Saudi government and says that American Muslims 'do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.'"
Islamophobia.org, a website dedicated to tracking anti-Muslim groups and individuals across the country, notes that Lt. Gen. Boykin has been rebuked by former President Bush for his anti-Muslim stance, has claimed that "Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment," and has stated that "there should be no mosques in America."
SEE: SPLC, Center for Security Policy
SPLC, Virginia County Sheriff hosting anti-Muslim training by disgraced conspiracy theorist John Guandolo
SPLC, Frank Gaffney, Jr.
Islamophobia.org, William Boykin
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.