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Muslim community in Oklahoma vows to continue outreach

by Carla Hinton Published: September 23, 2012

Jenell Mapp-Maynard, 28, operations manager for CAIR-Oklahoma, said she thinks Muslim women often bear the brunt of anti-Muslim attitudes because they are perhaps more easily identifiable as Muslims when they wear their hijabs, the traditional Islamic headscarf.

She said she sometimes counters impolite staring by starting a conversation with the person doing the ogling. Mapp-Maynard said the other person often acts surprised but generally is receptive to polite conversation.

Building bridges

Sheryl Siddiqui, of Tulsa, is spokeswoman for the Islamic Council of Oklahoma, a council of state mosques and Islamic schools that serves more than 35,000 Muslims in Oklahoma. She said her work building bridges of fellowship among Oklahoma mosque includes reassuring Oklahoma Muslims who become filled with “righteous indignation” when some non-Muslims cast Islam in a negative light after radical Islamic extremists' violence.

“They wouldn't do it (violence), they condemn it, but they still get accused of it,” she said.

Still, Siddiqui, 58, said she remains optimistic the non-Muslim community in the state is educating itself and wants to be educated about the true nonviolent tenets of Islam.

Also, she said interfaith projects and day-to-day peaceful interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide do not make “headline news” as often as accounts of radical Islamic terrorism, but they exist nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Enchassi said the Prophet Muhammad encouraged Muslims to repel evil with good.

Fresh perspective

Mapp-Maynard, a native of Atlanta, said she was not a Muslim when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. She said she converted to Islam about five years ago.

Mapp-Maynard said after this year's Sept. 11 violence by Islamic extremists in Libya — reportedly fueled by “Innocence of Islam,” a film ridiculing Islam's holy prophet — the Prophet Muhammad's advice to respond to hateful words and actions with forgiveness and good works was foremost in her mind.

“This is the first heart-wrenching incident or sequence of incidents that I have dealt with, so what Prophet Muhammad said about this is fresh in my head,” she said.

Support in Oklahoma

Soltani, an Edmond Santa Fe High School and University of Central Oklahoma graduate, said he hopes the free documentary DVD his organization is distributing helps to combat both the anti-Islamic tone of the film that reportedly ignited the Libyan violence and the resurgence of myths about Muslims that occurred after the Americans were killed in Libya.

He said in Oklahoma, with incidents such as a paintball attack in July on an Oklahoma City mosque more of the exception to the rule, his organization wants to share a film that depicts a balanced view of the life of Prophet Muhammad.

“When the mosque was paint-balled, they got flowers (from non-Muslim supporters). We really wanted to reach out to Oklahoma because Oklahoma has shown so much kindness, love, friendliness and acceptance to us,” he said.

And acceptance is what American Muslims really want, Soltani said.

“We want to be accepted as part of this society, as people who contribute in a positive way,” Soltani said.

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