Rep. John Bennett speaks about Islam to more than 100 of his constituents during a regular meeting of Republicans at a Sallisaw restaurant in September. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World file

From Tulsa World archives:

OKLAHOMA CITY — State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, renewed his attacks on Oklahoma Muslims Thursday by calling on a state organization to repudiate sections of the Quran.

Bennett also questioned the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ sincerity in condemning Wednesday’s attack on a Paris newspaper office by what appears to have been Muslim extremists.

“Almost immediately after the news broke of the Paris attacks, (CAIR-OK Executive Director) Adam Soltani sent a press release claiming the terrorists ‘are not Muslim’ and that they ‘were the antithesis of everything that Islam teaches and represents,’” Bennett said Thursday in a news release issued through the House of Representatives media office.

Citing several passages, Bennett said “the Quran, Islam and Mohammed’s hadiths justifies, teaches and makes it obligatory to commit violence against non-Muslims.”

Bennett said CAIR and Soltani should condemn those portions of the Quran.

Contacted by phone, Soltani said Bennett’s characterization is “completely inaccurate. He cherry-picks verses out of context.

“Extremists are extremists in any religion,” said Soltani. “People forget the history, even in our own country, less than 100 years ago we had the Ku Klux Klan, which looks a lot like ISIS.”

The post-Civil War Klan and the so-called “new” Klan of the 1920s were larger and better organized than today’s manifestations, and could also be much more violent. Both claimed to be Protestant Christian organizations.

Soltani also compared Bennett’s interpretations to those who used Bible verses to justify slavery.

“Part of the problem is that a lot of the passages he lists are taken out of context,” Soltani saud. “If you read before or after them, you see they are in a specific context.”

Commandments to fight, he said, were mostly “in terms of defending yourself, defending your family.”

Soltani called on the state’s religious and political leaders to distance themselves from Bennett’s campaign.

Bennett himself said Soltani and other Muslims had threatened him and his family.

“Adam Soltani condemned me for my free speech on my personal Facebook account a few months ago,” Bennett said in his statement. “This led to numerous death threats to my family and I. He also put me on a ‘Islamaphobic’ hit list, which again led to threats against my life. He is telling the papers that people have the right to speak freely, but does that only mean if they do not expose the truth about Islam and Mohammed’s hadiths?”

Bennett could not be reached Thursday for further comment.

State Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, meanwhile, asked Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, to “ban Rep. John Bennett from using the state House media staff to write and distribute his hateful rants.”

“Representative Bennett’s speech isn’t free,” Shelton said, also in a statement issued by the House media office, “because he’s using taxpayer-provided resources to conduct personal rants against a religious organization and its activities that have absolutely nothing to do with state government. He should be conducting his personal attacks on his own time, using his personal resources, not House staff and House computers.”

Hickman, however, said Bennett’s use of the House media office was appropriate.

“The attacks in France are an international news story which Rep. Bennett feels is important to his constituents,” Hickman said in a written statement.

“There are numerous issues which members comment on throughout the year. One issue which may be important to one representative and constituents in their district may not be of importance to another representative and the people of that district. Each member is accountable to their constituents for their statements and their public use of the tools afforded to them by virtue of their election by those constituents to represent them.”

World Staff Writer Barbara Hoberock contributed to this story.

Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365


Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365