When State Rep. Rex Duncan, a Sand Springs Republican, rejected the centennial gift of a Quran this week, he made exactly the wrong symbolic and political move.
Rep. Duncan reduced all believers in Islam, one of the world's great religious traditions, to terrorists or terrorist sympatherizers. "Most Oklahomans do not endorse the idea of killing innocent women and children in the name of ideology," Duncan told the Tulsa World.
On this point, we agree with Duncan.
But as the legislator surely knows, the vast majority of world Muslims are not terrorists. And as far as we can tell, the Oklahoma Muslims who presented the copies of the Quran are peace-loving neighbors and good citizens, hardly the sort to endorse the killing of innocent Americans.
A leader in the Tulsa Jewish community has recognized this fact and supports Oklahoma Muslims. "Today, I'm an American Muslim, speaking for our brothers," David Bernstein, of the Jewish Federation, said in Saturday's Tulsa World. "Hateful words inevitably lead to hateful actions," he added.
Exactly so. That's why we reject the narrowmindedness of Rep. Duncan and a group of other state politicians who refused the Quran. This action may placate the religious haters in Sand Springs and elsewhere, but it also plays into stereotype of Oklahomans (and many Americans) as small-minded bigots who can't tell the difference between lightning and a lightning bug (thank you, Mark Twain).
We're proud to side with Oliver Howard, president of the Oklahoma Conference for Community and Justice, who told the newspaper that religious intolerance has no place in Oklahoma. As Howard also noted, "All religious communities have or have had zealots who exploit scared scriptures for their own ends, including violent and human acts."
We're also proud to quote the words of Allison Moore, a member of the Islamic Society of Tulsa. "Our religion teaches us to be peaceful, tolerant, loving and respectful of neighbors and friends, and uphold justice for all people."
It's reprehensible that Rep. Duncan and like-minded legislators can't see beyond the violence of some Islamic extremists and recognize the goodness and humanity of their fellow Oklahomans.