Rep. John Bennett (right) talks with Karma Saleem during an interim study on radical Islam at the state Capitol on Tuesday. Saleem is a former Muslim who converted to Christianity. JIM BECKEL/The Oklahoman

OKLAHOMA CITY — The head of CAIR-OK, his organization and a well-known local spiritual leader were called terrorists Tuesday during a House interim study.

Adam Soltani, executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, members of the organization and Imam Imad S. Enchassi of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City were in the audience when the remarks were made. An imam is an Islamic leadership position.

CAIR is a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group working to enhance the understanding of Islam.

The interim study was requested by Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, who has said Islam is a cancer that needs to be cut out of the nation. He is running for re-election.

The study request was approved by House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. Three lawmakers, including Bennett, attended the study.

Soltani said there is no evidence to support the allegations that he, CAIR or Enchassi are terrorists.

“Rep. Bennett is shamefully wasting taxpayer money to promote his own biased agenda,” Soltani said. “This hearing was a new low for Rep. Bennett, as his guests presented a biased narrative that achieves nothing more than demonizing and marginalizing the Oklahoma Muslim community.”

Bennett and his speakers were escorted into the Capitol and to the meeting room by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. A handful of troopers were present outside the meeting room and inside.

Chris Gaubatz, a security consultant with UnderstandingtheThreat.com, said the purpose of CAIR is to establish an Islamic state and to eliminate and destroy western civilization from within.

Oklahoma should create a strategy to protect its citizens because the federal government has failed to do so, Gaubatz said. CAIR is one of the greatest threats to the U.S. and is no different than the al-Qaida terrorist group, he said.

UnderstandingtheThreat.com’s website says the group provides “strategic and operational threat-focused consultation, education, and training” and designs strategies “to defeat the enemy.”

John Guandolo, the founder of UnderstandingtheThreat.com, served in the Marines and is a former FBI agent. He said the Islamic movement in Oklahoma has made significant strides, and he called Soltani a terrorist.

Under questioning from Bennett, Guandolo said groups in the country’s jihadi network use relationships with other faiths as a tool.

Enchassi then got up from his seat in the audience and hugged two members of other faiths who were in attendance.

Bennett asked Rep. Randy Grau, R-Edmond, chairman of the Judiciary and Civil Procedure Committee, to admonish members of the audience not to hug one another. Grau did not issue an admonishment.

“It’s a free country,” Enchassi said.

“I know,” said Bennett, who served in the U.S. Marines. “I fought for it in two wars.”

The pair from UnderstandingtheThreat.com were among a handful of speakers called by Bennett, including Frank Gaffney, founded the Center for Security Policy; a “confidential informant” who spoke over a speakerphone; and a man who claimed to be a former member of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Bennett called the presenters patriots and said he and his family have received death threats. At one point, he recited the Pledge of Allegiance.

Following the hearing, Bennett held a news conference to say he was working on legislation to kick CAIR out of the state.

Asked for more specifics, he said, “You should never tell your battle plan before you go into battle.”

Bennett did say he was disappointed more lawmakers did not attend the study.

Twitter: @bhoberock

Barbara Hoberock



Twitter: @bhoberock

Recommended for you