By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The Oklahoma branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) and its Executive Director, Adam Soltani, will receive the state’s top civil liberties award from the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma this weekend.
“Adam Soltani and CAIR-Oklahoma were chosen to receive the Angie Debo Award because of their efforts to protect the rights of Oklahoma’s Muslim community and to ensure the religious liberty rights of all Oklahomans,” said ACLU Oklahoma executive director Ryan Kiesel.
The highest honor presented by the ACLU of Oklahoma is named in honor of the writer, historian, and civil rights advocate Angie Debo. In cooperation with ACLU Oklahoma, Debo tirelessly pursued justice during the late 1960’s and 1970’s.
The accolade has been presented annually since 1971 for outstanding achievement in the fight for civil rights and civil liberties.
Established in 2008, CAIR-Oklahoma is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) whose mission is enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding throughout the state.
Soltani received a Master’s degree in Human Relations with a certificate in Organizational Diversity and Development from the University of Oklahoma and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology from the University of Central Oklahoma.
He has served the Muslim community in various capacities, including promoting and managing American Muslim artists for Meem Music in London, as assistant outreach director at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, and as a youth development coordinator at the Islamic Society of Edmond.
A founding member of the CAIR Oklahoma Chapter, Soltani currently serves as the chair of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches’ Religions United Committee, and is a planning committee member for OKC’s Jewish-Muslim Film Institute.
Soltani is a regular speaker at Oklahoma universities and college campuses on topics ranging from the basics of Islam to demystifying Jihad.
“Throughout our nation’s history, religious minorities have been marginalized and persecuted for their beliefs,” Kiesel said. “Politicians continue to use religion as a weapon to divide Americans against themselves and those demagogues often fan prejudicial flames that smolder well beyond a single election.
“We routinely teach our school children that religious liberty is at the core of American principles and ideas,” Kiesel continued. “However, the right to choose how one believes or whether to believe at all is not innate. It must be continually fought for and won by each and every generation of Americans. Today, whether they realize it or not, all Oklahomans are the beneficiaries of the brave work done by CAIR-OK.”
Soltani will receive the award during ACLU Oklahoma’s Annual Meeting, which will be held at noon on Saturday, April 16 at the Ralph Ellison Library, 2000 NE 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. He will also deliver the meeting’s keynote address.
“It is a true honor to be named by the ACLU of Oklahoma as the recipient of this year’s Angie Debo Award along with CAIR Oklahoma,” Soltani said. “I owe a debt of gratitude to all that have supported us in protecting the civil liberties of Oklahoma Muslims and Oklahomans in general.
“Special thanks to Anna “Sunshine” Facci, Veronica Laizure, and the entire board of directors of our organization for all their dedicated service.
“And extra special thanks to my wife Victoria Odetallah for being my rock and standing by my side through all the challenges one faces in standing for truth and justice,” Soltani added.
Kiesel says that the ACLU-OK remains at the center of the civil rights movement in the United States.
“The organization’s annual meeting is an opportunity for members of the ACLU to reflect on where we have been, how far we have come, and to reaffirm a commitment to realizing greater liberty, freedom, and justice for all Oklahomans,” Kiesel said.
The meeting is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. To participate, RSVP to Bryan Newell [email protected] or call 405-524-8511.