OKLAHOMA — Three Muslim students who wanted to talk with an Oklahoma state legislator about Islam had to fill out a questionnaire first, said a state leader of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Do you beat your wife?” said one question on the form Rep. John Bennett’s assistant gave them. “Do you denounce the terrorist organization Hamas?” was another.
The law student and two high school students were shocked and insulted because the 17 questions were based on misinformation about the religion, said Adam Soltani, state director of CAIR. The students didn’t meet Bennett, a Republican, and left his office in the state capitol.
“Nobody should be vetted with stupid, Islamophobic, hateful, bigoted questions before they meet with their representative,” Soltani said on a Facebook video. “Let’s hold him accountable.”
CNN was not able to reach Bennett for comment, but the Tulsa World said he confirmed the questionnaire was given to the students.
“CANT REFUTE FACTS!” Bennett wrote in an email, the newspaper reported, in reference to the wife-beating question. Bennett told the paper the questions are based on passages from the Koran and other Islamic texts.
For instance, the full question about wife-beating is worded like this: “The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?”
Another question: “Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?” Another: “Sharia Law says that it must rule over the kafirs, the non-Muslims. Do you agree with this?”
Bennett says he served in the Marines and is a staunch Christian, according to a video on his legislative page. He’s known for making highly critical statements about Islam.
In 2014, he posted on Facebook that Oklahomans should “be wary” of Muslim Americans, reported CNN affiliate KWTV.
That same year, the Tulsa World reported, he told a group Islam wants to destroy Western civilization and “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” He’s also been critical of CAIR.
The three students visited the state capitol last Thursday for an annual event in which state Muslims talk to lawmakers.
Soltani said they knew about Bennett’s previous comments but wanted to show him what Muslims were really like.
“I think many Muslims in our state would love to talk to him and tell their side of the story,” Soltani said. “He may not now or ever change his views of the story, but they just want to talk to him.”
Soltani said Act for America prepared the questionnaire. A logo for that group can be seen at the top of the form.
The Oklahoma Democratic Party issued a statement saying the questionnaire was “riddled with hate and misinformation” and denounced Bennett and his “anti-Muslim bigotry.”