By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – The Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma Chapter (CAIR-OK) will bring together Muslims and their interfaith partners from across the state for the 4th annual “Oklahoma Muslim Day at the Capitol.”
The day-long program will take place on Monday, March 5 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Oklahoma City.
The Muslim Day agenda will include advocacy training, visits to offices of Oklahoma legislators, and an afternoon prayer.
Event organizers say they expect increased attendance this year, due to what they describe as continued attacks against Islam from elected officials locally and nationally.
The morning will consist of advocacy training by Joe Dorman, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy; Ashton Hughes, Political Consultant and Co-Director of Oklahoma’s New Leader’s Council; and Lani R. Habrock, CAIR-OK Government Affairs Director.
Participants will hear from keynote speakers Sen. Anastasia Pittman, D-Oklahoma; and Rep. George E. Young; former Rep. Shane Jett; and Bailey Perkins, Oklahoma Policy Institute Outreach & Legislative Director; (11 am).
Additional speakers will include Rep. George Young, D-Oklahoma City; and Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City.
During Muslim Day, attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about state and federal government through educational panels featuring municipal and state level elected officials. Participants will be provided with the tools and resources needed for the Oklahoma Muslims to meet with their senators and representatives in order to advocate for various issues.
“The goal of our annual advocacy day is, and always has been, to provide Oklahoma’s Muslim community with an opportunity to be educated on the legislative process, engage with their elected leaders, and advocate for issues that are important to them,” said CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani.
“With Islamophobia at an all-time high in our country, this also serves as an opportunity for Legislators to meet face-to-face with one of the most marginalized communities in America.”
In previous years, advocacy days have been met with protests fueled by what organizers characterize as “Islamphobia,”, actions that took place both outside the event and inside the Capitol.
The Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma will once again partner with the Oklahoma Conference of Churches in order to provide support from members of different religions to the Muslims arriving at the Capitol and throughout the day of advocacy.
During last year’s event, several participants were asked to fill out a form issued by the office of state Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw – including questions such as “do you beat your wife? and “do you denounce the terrorist organization Hamas?” as reported by CNN.
In response, Soltani told OK Gazette reporter Laura Eastes, “While CAIR-OK has built relationships with some lawmakers, some members also reported quality interactions with lawmakers not familiar to the organization.
“It signaled that we are making inroads toward having our voices heard,” Soltani added. “Muslim Day at the Capitol can be the catalyst to encourage and motivate people to advocate year-round.
“By adding the position of government affairs, that’s where we will see the value,” he said. “It’s no longer just one day. … sustained advocacy from community members is where we feel we can most effect change.”
CAIR is described by its leadership as America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. The organization’s literature characterizes its mission as to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
On Saturday, April 7, CAIR Oklahoma will host its 12th Annual Awards Banquet at the Sheraton – Reed Conference Center in Midwest City from 7 – 10 p.m. The event themed, “Coming Full Circle: Embracing the past, empowering the future,” will feature keynote speaker Imam Khalid Latif, chaplain for New York University and executive director of NYU’s Islamic Center. Banquet general admission is $40, $50 after Feb. 28. Tickets are available now online.
For more information, visit cairoklahoma.com or call Adam Soltani at 405-248-5853.