OKLAHOMA CITY — In response to anti-Muslim rhetoric, an advocacy group is giving away copies of the Quran to Oklahomans interested in making up their own minds about Islam.
Adam Soltani, director of Oklahoma’s chapter of Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he predicts continued “hate rhetoric” throughout the year.
So the group is renewing a project to send a copy of the sacred text to anyone interested in reading it.
“Within the last few months, with all the increased Islamophobic rhetoric on the national platform, I thought we really need to look at pushing this out again,” he said.
The project is widely popular. Soltani said the chapter wasn’t prepared for an onslaught of requests last month — 200 in just three days — from people with a “sincere desire to understand the religion better.”
There were so many requests, in fact, the group had to order more books. These days, it fills requests as quickly as possible.
Soltani acknowledges most who ask for Quran won’t read it cover-to-cover, but he hopes at least some look through it and keep it as a reference when they hear someone spouting words of hate.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric has intensified in recent years, he said, and especially with the presidential campaign. Billionaire businessman Donald Trump, for example, vowed in December to ban Muslim immigration to the United States until the U.S. government is better suited to combat terrorism.
As rhetoric intensifies, Soltani said, so do incidents of discrimination and vandalism. Last year, someone smeared pork products over the exterior of Edmond’s mosque. A gun range in the Muskogee area announced it was banning Muslims.
A mosque in Oklahoma City has been targeted twice in recent years. Once, it was pelted with paintballs, and the second time vandals painted graphic graffiti images of male genitalia.
Soltani said the goal of his group’s project is to allow Oklahomans to make informed, unbiased decisions about Islam by reading the holy book for themselves, rather than relying on others who might “cherry-pick verses” or take them out of context.
Translations from Arabic aren’t always easy to understand, he said. English versions of the Quran often contain bulky vocabulary and phrases — think Shakespearean — that no one uses anymore.
The group worked with Islamic scholars to find the most accurate, easy-to-understand translation. The version they’re distributing does not contain any Arabic and is in modern English.
The idea of giving away copies of the Quran isn’t new. Soltani’s chapter first launched the project in 2014, and the national organization offers a similar program.
But, while continuing to offer the books free in the last two years, the Oklahoma group has focused on other education initiatives. Last month, it renewed the project, funded by private donors of all faiths, and publicized its offer on Facebook.
The group only offers copies to Oklahomans. It covers the $10 cost of the book, as well as shipping, though it usually calls to verify a requestor’s name and address.
“I truly hope people take advantage of it,” Soltani said.
For more information, go to www.cai roklahoma.com.