The executive director of Oklahoma's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Monday he is disappointed Gov. Mary Fallin has decided to abolish a gubernatorial advisory council dealing with Middle Eastern cultures and issues.
Muneer Awad said he was aware the governor was under pressure from people who believe Muslims secretly are trying to overthrow Oklahoma, and that Muslims can't be trusted.
“This kind of sentiment is really the venom that's affecting our government,” he said.
“There is no Muslim threat in Oklahoma, and the idea that we have politicians suggest there may be is really troubling to us,” Awad said.
Social conservatives had called on Fallin to get rid of the three advisory councils. They especially are upset with councils dealing with Hispanic and Middle Eastern people. More than a dozen people critical of the advisory councils began showing up this year at the meetings of the Hispanic and Middle Eastern councils.
About 30 people showed up at last month's meeting of the Governor's Advisory Council on Ethnic American Affairs, which represents 25 Middle Eastern cultures. Council members were asked their views of the Muslim Brotherhood and its calls for a citizen jihad and Sharia law.
Fallin had 90 days after she took office in January to decide whether to extend the life of the councils, which were formed by executive orders issued by two earlier governors; Democrat Brad Henry formed the ethnic-American council and Republican Frank Keating formed councils dealing with Hispanic and Asian-American affairs.
Fallin said she plans after the legislative session ends in May to look at ways to take a fresh approach to showcasing the art, culture and history of Oklahoma's diverse population and best representing the interests of its various communities, a spokesman said.
Awad said, “We hope she will at least open the door for the minority communities in Oklahoma again. What that council did, what the other two councils did, was it offered a bridge of communication between our government and these minority groups.”