December's Mosaic meeting had a special session called “Crucial Conversations” to create an open, safe place for dialog on a topic brought up at our last meeting. Our members requested resources and information on how to discuss Muslims and Islam in the workplace.
Jeff Dunn, the Chamber’s incoming board chair, connected us with a local businessman willing to discuss Muslims in Oklahoma, and was joined by a representative from the Islamic Council of Oklahoma to lend additional perspective conversation.
Our guests offered a short presentation to share information about Muslims in America:
- Muslims believe practitioners of Abrahamic faiths -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- are brothers and sisters from different mothers.
- Allah is the Arabic word for God; Arab Christians call God Allah.
- Muslims pray five times a day and face Mecca during prayer.
- Most American Muslims immigrated after WWII for economic reasons, regional conflicts, loss of land, education and political stability.
- African Americans make up the majority of native-born American converts to Islam.
- There are approximately 1.2 billion Muslims in the world.
After the presentation, we opened the up discussion for a question and answer period.
What accommodations could an organization offer to their Muslim employees for the daily prayers?
Companies can provide a private and clean space for prayer. Prayers last five minutes, and specifically Muslims need time around lunch to the afternoon for prayer; depending on their practice, the timing is flexible. Friday afternoons are an important time for community prayer, held at a mosque at 2:00 p.m. This is their largest service of the week.
How do you create political awareness around state issues affecting Oklahoma's Muslims?
We have held Muslim advocacy day at the capitol to help create a better understanding with legislatures.
Why don’t we see more Muslims speaking out in the community?
Many Muslims don’t do things to be right by other people, they do things to be right by God, and often don't like to accept public recognition for the work they do in their communities.
How can non-Muslims lend their support to Muslims in Oklahoma?
Education and mutual understanding of of our respective beliefs. Muslims believe the Abrahamic faiths all worship the same God, and many believe we are all brothers and sisters and will all go to heaven together.
How does media affect perceptions of Muslims?
The media doesn’t tell our story, they tell their story. If we live by the headlines, we will die by the headlines. On September 18th, 2001 there was a huge candlelight vigil with thousands of attendees in Tehran out of respect for the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks; there was virtually no media coverage of this event.
What is one thing we could share with people that would help create more awareness around current events and perceptions?
The number one enemy of Muslims' across the world is ISIS, followed by Al Qaeda.
What educational resources would you recommend?
Mosques are open and have five daily prayers, and visitors are encouraged to come and ask questions. Mosques offer an open and welcoming environment for all faiths. The Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma's national affiliation, CAIR, provides a wealth of resources and information to learn about Islam and dispel many of the false myths about it. Additionally, the book Who Speaks For Islam?: What a Billion Muslims Really Think is based on a six-year Gallup study with tens of thousands of Muslims answering common questions about Islam and the Muslim world.