(Reuters) - Muslim students visiting an Oklahoma lawmaker’s office in the state capitol were required to fill out a form that asked if they beat their wives and other questions that offended them, an Islamic advocacy group said.
The two-page form from Republican state Representative John Bennett’s office, which was shared by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also asked whether they believed an adherent to Islam should be punished for leaving the faith and if Muslims should rule over non-Muslims.
A staff member at Bennett’s handed the form to Muslim students who visited his office on Thursday seeking to meet with him, said Adam Soltani, the executive director of the Oklahoma chapter of CAIR. It was presented as a requirement before they could meet Bennett, Soltani said.
The students were at the capitol in Oklahoma City for an annual Muslim Day event organized by CAIR to introduce members of the community to their state lawmakers and encourage democratic engagement, Soltani said by phone on Saturday.
Bennett confirmed to the Tulsa World newspaper in an email that three Muslim students visiting his office on Thursday as part of Muslim Day activities at the state capitol were handed tracts that, among other things, asked “Do you beat your wife?”
The lawmaker said that Islamic law and the Koran permit Muslims to beat their wives, though “this certainly does not mean that all Muslim men beat their wives,” he wrote in the email, according to the newspaper.
Bennett and the state Republican party did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The students who visited the office of the former U.S. Marine were told he was away and they never did talk to the lawmaker, Soltani said.
“What’s most inflammatory is the questions itself, the fact that Muslims have to pass a religious test in order to see a representative of our state, surely he does not do this to Christian constituents or Jewish constituents,” Soltani said.
This is not the first time Bennett has faced criticism for his statements against Islam.
In a speech in 2014, the lawmaker said he had read the Koran and the Prophet Mohammad’s sayings and that “90 percent of it is violence.”
He acknowledged facing rebukes over his positions on the religion and being called an Islamophobe.
“If I’m an Islamophobe speaking the truth about Islam then you’re absolutely right,” he said at the speech, according to video from the Tulsa World newspaper.
The heading on the questionnaire said it was from an Oklahoma chapter of ACT for America, a national organization which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in the United States.
A representative for the Oklahoma chapter of the group did not return an email seeking comment.
Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank McGurty and Mary Milliken