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Muslim community in Oklahoma vows to continue outreach

by Carla Hinton Published: September 23, 2012

As a Muslim American, Adam Soltani said he has been told to “go home” more times than he can count, particularly in the aftermath of violence perpetuated by radical Islamic extremists.

But Soltani, a native Kansan raised in Oklahoma, said he is home.

“We get told a lot to ‘go home,' and it is sometimes very difficult to hear that,” Soltani said, referring to those who have told him and other Muslims that they should live in Muslim-majority countries.

Soltani said he has lived in the United States his entire life and “to be told to go back home really hurts us because this is our home.”

The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma Chapter said negative and bigoted comments about Muslims generally abound after extremists perpetuate violence in the name of Islam. Even after American Muslims and Muslim organizations such as CAIR-Oklahoma strongly condemn such bloodshed, anti-Muslim sentiments often persist in the aftermath of Islamic extremists' murderous aggression.

Soltani, 44, said he and many other Muslims in Oklahoma continue to try to dispel the myths that Islam is a violent faith and all Muslims are terrorists. He said that's why CAIR-Oklahoma, a Muslim advocacy organization, recently launched a campaign to distribute free copies of a PBS documentary about the Prophet Muhammad.

The campaign comes in the wake of the Sept. 11 murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other Americans serving their country in Libya who were killed by Islamic extremists. Soltani said the distribution of “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,” along with a new website soon to be launched, will go a long way toward educating non-Muslims about who Prophet Muhammad was and the peaceful tenets of Islam.

In the meantime, he and several Oklahoma Muslim leaders said they will continue to publicly condemn the violent actions of extremists who say they are acting in the name of Islam. They also will continue to open their mosques to non-Muslims who wish to know more about Islam.

Tiresome work

Imad Enchassi, imam and president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, said he read in a recent newspaper story that some American Muslims are exhausted from their efforts to reiterate to non-Muslims that they strongly condemn murderous attacks such as that in Libya.

He said American Muslims grieved for their fallen countrymen just like others across the country, but their grief was laced with fear.

Enchassi, 47, said they fear non-Muslims will retaliate against them in some way such as verbal attacks, hate mail and even a violent attack at their local mosques or at Mercy School, the private Islamic school in northwest Oklahoma City.

“We have our own alert system and we become particularly concerned for our children,” he said.

Enchassi said the recent murders of Americans in Libya brought with them a sense of deja vu for him, reminding him of the anti-Muslim atmosphere in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

However, Enchassi said he and many other Muslims have become accustomed — almost immune — to the rude stares and sometimes subtly hostile or negative behavior from some non-Muslims who tar all Muslims with a terrorist brush.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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