William F. O'Brien
Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
The Oklahoma Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is known by the acronym “CAIR,” had its annual award banquet last week in Oklahoma City. The theme of the gathering was “Upholding our Constitution and Defending our Faith.” CAIR executive director and Edmond resident Adam Soltani told the attendees that the organization was committed to making Oklahoma a better place to live by protecting the rights of citizens and working to encourage greater understanding between Muslims and peoples of other faiths in the state. He also spoke of how an Oklahoma City mosque was sprayed with paintballs last year at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and when congregants came to that mosque on the following morning they were greeted by a group of Oklahomans who carried signs that said that they stood with them and supported them. Soltani concluded his remarks by saying that when he was a boy in Edmond a teacher had told him that while everyone can dream you must be able to turn your dreams into reality, and that CAIR was committed to a dream of a better Oklahoma and was working to make it a reality.
The keynote address was given by Imam Johari Abdul-Malik of the Dar-Al Hiraj Islamic Center in Falls Church, Va. Abdul Malik was the first Muslim Chaplain at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and was the founder of the Muslim Association of Washington, D.C. He detailed how Muslims are part of American life and reminded his listeners that Thomas Jefferson kept a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Koran, in his library.
Ryan Kiesel, the executive director of ACLU of Oklahoma, also addressed the gathering, and spoke of how his organization partnered with CAIR to challenge the legality of State Question 755, which prohibited the use of Sharia law in Oklahoma. Kiesel said that the proponents of that measure were unable to show any instances in which a court in the state was asked to consider Sharia law and that the federal court in Oklahoma City and the federal appeals court in Denver found State Question 755 to be unconstitutional because it unlawfully restricted the rights of Muslims.
The Rev. William Tabernee, who is the executive director of the Oklahoma Conferences of Churches, received an award for his efforts to reach out to those of other faiths. Abdurrahman Kabani, a recent graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Tulsa resident, who is the son of Syrian immigrants, was honored with the award that is bestowed on young people who have shown leadership and community service. Kabani, who is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in public health at OU’s Tulsa campus, has worked to develop a youth group for the Tulsa Islamic community and also volunteers with a food bank that assists the less fortunate residents of Tulsa.
Imam Imad Enchassi, who was one of the founders of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, also addressed the gathering and asked them to make contributions to fund CAIR so that it can continue the work that it is committed to in Oklahoma.
WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is an Oklahoma City attorney.