MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 2, 2013

Muslim leader attends seminar, nearly banned


— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)  — The leader of a Muslim advocacy group in Oklahoma attended a law enforcement seminar Friday at the state Capitol despite organizers’ attempts to ban him.

Adam Soltani, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, initially was told he could not register for Friday’s seminar entitled, “Iran, Hezbollah and the Drug Cartels: Counterterrorism Considerations,” which was open to law enforcement and some members of the public. The seminar, which qualifies for continuing education credit for Oklahoma law enforcement, included speakers that Soltani described as “anti-Muslim extremists.”

The event was held in Oklahoma House of Representatives’ chamber and sponsored by the House’s Counterterrorism Caucus, an informal group formed by state Rep. John Bennett. The Sallisaw Republican is a Marine Corps combat veteran and fierce critic of Sharia law.

Solanti said he was told the seminar was full and he couldn’t attend by a Washington, D.C.-based attorney working with the caucus, Michael Hoehn. Hoehn and other event organizers stood watch at the gallery entrances and questioned some of those who tried to go inside, but Soltani entered anyway and watched the seminar from the gallery.

“This would be laughable if it didn’t pose a serious risk of prejudice to Oklahoma’s Muslim community,” said Ryan Kiesel, the head of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has called for the state’s Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training (CLEET) to withdraw accreditation for the course.

“And I think CLEET’s reputation has been hijacked by conspiracy theorists and political opportunists, and if they want to restore their reputation, they need to withdraw accreditation for this continuing course,” Kiesel added.