OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - After one Oklahoma lawmaker raised terrorism as an issue, several others joined him in rejecting a gift of the Quran from a council created by Gov. Brad Henry.
"Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology," said Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs.
Duncan expressed his feelings in a letter to his colleagues on Monday. By late Tuesday, 15 legislators had notified the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council that they were returning the gift.
Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, chairman of the council and a Muslim, said she was "a little disappointed."
Seirafi-Pour said the gift was a way to introduce the council to lawmakers so they can use it as a resource to "serve their offices and constituents." She estimates there are 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims in Oklahoma.
She said no state funds were used in the project.
Seirafi-Pour disagreed with Duncan's assessment of her religion. "I know he referred to Islam as an ideology. That is not a fact. It is a religion. It is very peaceful, very inclusive.
"We do not wish to have any ill feelings or miscommunications with any other groups or any other religions and especially our elected officials."
"My comment is that we never hear those 30,000 to 50,000 Muslims opposing the practice of violence on innocent people," Duncan said.
Duncan was asked about a double standard since lawmakers received a Centennial copy of the Bible earlier in the year from The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
"Mine is proudly on my desk on the Capitol and I don't think I ever read a part of it that condones the killing of women and children in furtherance of God's word," Duncan said. "It's one of the nicest things I've received in my three years in the Legislature."
Henry could not be contacted for comment because he was on an overseas flight to Great Britain in his role as chairman of the Council of State Governments.
Spokesman Paul Sund said the council was created by executive order in 2003. "A group of Oklahomans of predominantly Middle Eastern descent came to the governor and asked him to create an advisory council similar to others that have been created for Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans.
"The governor thought the idea made sense, given the history of cultural diversity in Oklahoma."
In Washington, spokesman Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the controversy is "disturbing" and "offensive" to Muslims.
"It just points to the amount of education about Islam and the American Muslim community that is needed in all levels in our society, including elected officials," Hooper said.
- Hussam Ayloush
- Hussam has been a lifelong human rights activist who is passionate about promoting democratic societies, in the US and worldwide, in which all people, including immigrants, workers, minorities, and the poor enjoy freedom, justice, economic justice, respect, and equality. Mr. Ayloush frequently lectures on Islam, media relations, civil rights, hate crimes and international affairs. He has consistently appeared in local, national, and international media. Full biography at: http://hussamayloush.blogspot.com/2006/08/biography-of-hussam-ayloush.html