I don’t know what I can add to the media hoopla over Oklahoma state Rep. John Bennett’s supremely weird and bigoted interim study of so-called “Radical Islam” this week, but it might be worth noting the legislator’s inflammatory gestures are symbolic of how the Republican Party here continues to offer fear-mongering as a substitute for substance.
— Nasty Woman (@alovelily) September 20, 2016
Oh yeah, state GOP legislators also pass ruinous fiscal policies that are destroying the state’s education and health systems, but that’s another issue. Let’s get on with the hate study.
Another digression: That’s Bennett, a Sallisaw Republican, and his gun-toting family in the tweet after the first paragraph. I don’t think it’s meant to be satire or parody. Is it on some deeper level of reality? I don’t know. It makes one wonder.
The title of the interim study, according to an Oklahoma House press release, was “Radical Islam, Shariah Law, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicalization process,” which, of course, implies that all these things represent some type of specific and unique dilemma in outback Oklahoma.
Well, I guess the “radicalization process” by the right-wing Christian religious folks here in Oklahoma is a major problem, but I don’t think Bennett intended the title to be read that way.
The “study,” as even many Republicans know, was foolish at a caricature level, but don’t worry because Bennett supposedly doesn’t care about what people think about him. As the release points out, “Bennett said he’s been ridiculed for his beliefs, but he is willing to do whatever it takes to protect Oklahoma and U.S. citizens from the real and present danger of radical Islam and its subsidiary groups.”
That’s right. Whatever. It. Takes. Even it if means insulting a group of productive Oklahoma citizens exercising their constitutional right of religious freedom. Here’s what the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) had to say in response to the Islamophobic atmosphere at the so-called “study”:
Representative John Bennett is shamefully wasting taxpayer money to promote his own biased agenda, said CAIR-OK Executive Director Adam Soltani. This hearing was a new low for Representative Bennett, as his guests presented a biased narrative that achieves nothing more than demonizing and marginalizing the Oklahoma Muslim Community.
Bennett’s study and his remarks about Islam are an embarrassment to the state, but that’s all been said. Here’s how The Lost Ogle put it, “Yep. Dust off your ‘Zero Days Since Oklahoma’s Been A National Embarrassment’ graphic.” That’s true enough. TLO also cited the unique difference in local coverage of the event.
Again, to state the obvious, the GOP uses this type of fear mongering on the local and national level to prod low-information voters into voting against their economic interests. Radical Islam? More tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest Oklahomans and oil companies. Shariah Law? Cuts to education. It’s all part of the scam to demean and belittle groups of people through mob mentality to win the conservative vote. But Oklahomans are the nicest people, right? Well, I know some nice Oklahomans, but they don’t for a minute buy into Bennett’s foolery and paranoia.
I sense the GOP fear mongering strategy is working less in some parts of the country these days, even in the south in states like North Carolina, but it remains alive and well here. It remains as disgusting and bigoted as ever.