Interfaith Community Responds To Lawmakers

Friday, October 26th 2007, 9:38 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Remarks by some state lawmakers who rejected Qurans offered as gifts from an ethnic advisory council promote Islamophobia, mistrust and hostility, members of Oklahoma's interfaith community said Friday.

Members also said Republican state Rep. Rex Duncan's comments this week about the Quran promoted "religious bigotry" and called upon Oklahomans to tell the Sand Springs lawmaker that his views don't represent those of Oklahomans or Americans.

Duncan refused to accept the Quran, saying most Oklahomans did not "endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology."

He expressed those sentiments about the Quran in a letter copied to colleagues on Monday. By Wednesday evening, at least 24 legislators had notified the panel they would return the gift to a state panel on diversity. No state funds were used to purchase the books.

"Rep. Duncan has handled this situation in a way that is disrespectful of his fellow Americans," said the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, president of the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministries Board of Trustees. "At the centennial of our state, we must all tell Rex Duncan that his discriminatory words and his unapologetic bigotry toward his fellow American citizens do not represent our great state or our blessed country."

Lavanhar was joined at a news conference by members of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Tulsa Interfaith Alliance and the Jewish Federation, among others.

"Today, I'm an American Muslim, speaking for our brothers," said David Bernstein, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Tulsa. "Hateful words inevitably lead to hateful actions."

Razi Hashmi, executive director of CAIR Oklahoma, said the Islamic faith condemns terrorism and acts of violence against the innocent, and at a time of international crisis, religious groups should be trying to understand each other, not "promoting mistrust and hostility."

On Friday, Duncan said he stood by his original comments, and added, "such hostile response to a refusal to accept a gift is un-American."

"It should be a wake-up call to all Oklahomans and all Americans that CAIR is a hostile organization," Duncan said. "And while they claim to be peaceful and respectful, their actions prove otherwise."

An estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims live in Oklahoma.

For more information on CAIR, click here.