Commentary: #okcstrong Hope springs from tragedy

Many ask me why I live in a state that vilifies and marginalizes minority groups. Why would I show pride in a state in which hate rhetoric is common among elected officials and laws are passed with the sole aim of violating the civil rights that we are all due?

My answer is simple: Out of all evil comes good.

No Oklahoman will forget the tragedy that shook our state on April 19, 1995. It always will be remembered as one of the worst domestic terrorist attacks in our country’s history.

That day, our nation saw how acts of hate and evil impacted the lives of so many. As a result, the life we knew was forever changed, as we also lost our sense of safety and security.

We can forever analyze the negative ways in which the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building changed our lives. However, in marking the memory of those we lost on that day, we should also put in perspective how we overcame such great challenges as a state and learned to short-circuit hate and bigotry with peace, love, mercy and compassion.

From the tragic event that took place 20 years ago, a small movement was born, one that many are still unaware of.

In the hours that followed the bombing, anti-Muslim hysteria in our state exploded as they erroneously were targeted as Public Enemy No. 1.

When our state’s Muslim community had nowhere else to turn and no one else by its side, fellow Oklahomans noticed, and the city’s interfaith community was born out of the ashes of the Murrah Building.

Over the last two decades, cooperation among faith groups has increased to the point that we now have multiple state organizations dedicated to fostering dialogue and cooperation among people of all backgrounds. These organizations realize that beyond the beliefs we all hold dear, our common denominator is that we must connect on a human level to move past our ignorance, bias and prejudice.

Perhaps it is befitting that the fruits of two decades of interfaith building and cooperation in our state stands as a true honor to the legacy of those we lost in 1995. No longer are minority faith groups desperate for support as groups work together to build a deep level of understanding and appreciation for one another as Oklahomans.

Twenty years after our state’s Muslim community found itself standing alone, scared and confused, the interfaith community again took a stand for peace and love in September 2014 when an entire faith community came under attack following a criminal act in Moore. In February, when animosity reared its ugly head at Muslim Capitol Day in the form of hate- and bigotry-pushing protestors, interfaith community members arrived en masse and quickly dwarfed the number of protesters as they worked to protect every Muslim attendee.

April 19, 1995 showcased the worst of humanity in an act of senseless violence, but who we have become as a people showcases the best of humanity for the rest of the country to see.

Adam Soltani is executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

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