Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif Responds to Oklahoma Lawmaker’s Questioning of Muslim Student Constituents 

BALTIMORE, MD – March, 7, 2017 (MNISAASHELTER) Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif, Executive Director of Inge Benevolent Ministries and the MNISAA Shelter, issues statement regarding the recent discriminatory actions of Oklahoma Representative John Bennett towards three Muslim students.

During an annual event at the Oklahoma Capital, organized by the Council of American-Islamic Relations to introduce Muslim constituents to their state representatives and encourage democratic involvement, two Muslim high school students and one law student were required to complete a questionnaire before meeting with Rep. John Bennett of Oklahoma. Adam Soltani, Director of the CAIR-Oklahoma chapter, reported that the students were given a form to complete asking questions such as “The Quran, the Sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools say that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?” and “Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”. It was reported that Rep. Bennett had already left when the students visited his office. However, his assistant was instructed to have the students fill out the questionnaire and bring their religious texts for discussion at the next appointment.

According to an email response from Rep. Bennett, “The questionnaire was left for them to provoke their thought. If they weren’t aware of what Islam stands for they should know and research, then make a better informed decision on what they want to support or not. If they are aware of what Islam, Sharia, CAIR, jihadist stand for and still support it then they are part of the problem,”. Furthermore, he noted that “In summary, according to the Quran, Hadith and Islamic law, a woman may indeed have physical harm done to her if the circumstances warrant, with one such allowance being in the case of disobedience. This certainly does not mean that all Muslim men beat their wives, only that Islam permits them to do so.”

Chaplain Asma Inge-Hanif, an active member of the interfaith community and advocate for victims of domestic violence, responded to the incident stating “It is very unfortunate that a person who represents the state of Oklahoma, its citizens, and the United States Marine Corps would engage in inflammatory interactions with students requesting an audience with their elected official. Not only do these actions work against the spirit of meaningful dialogue with other faith communities, they seek to characterize one faith tradition as the religious other. Any attempt to reduce the rich history of an entire faith tradition to a set of cherry-picked questions devoid of context and nuance ignores the diversity within any school of thought. Furthermore, a great many of the form’s questions present false dichotomies, beg the question, set up proof surrogates, and a host of other logical fallacies.

Representative Bennett could have utilized any number of alternative venues if he sought a true discourse on Islamic theology with genuine intentions to find solutions to problems present throughout all walks of life. To present serious issues, such as Domestic Violence and Intolerance, as belonging to one group is antithetical to the honest dialogue needed to address the problem. Although Rep. Bennett acknowledges that all Muslim men don’t beat their wives, the implication is that the Islamic faith is a causative factor in abuse. Unfortunately, this premise overlooks the issue of female to male violence, reduces domestic violence to simply physical abuse, and ignores the psycho-emotional factors present in abuser.

As the daughter of a Montford Point Marine, the first group of African American Marines in the country, I have seen individuals risk their lives for freedoms they weren’t able to take advantage of. As such, an elected official should never utilize their office as a vehicle for a personal agenda. Simply put, a Representative must represent and afford ALL of their constituents with the respect and rights afforded to them by the constitution.