OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A rally by hundreds of American Muslims at the Oklahoma Capitol on Friday to promote religious tolerance was interrupted by anti-Islamic protesters holding signs proclaiming the United States a Christian nation.
While an American Muslim girl sang the “Star Spangled Banner” inside the statehouse in Oklahoma City, about two dozen anti-Islamic protesters outside hurled insults at the group, mostly students, as they visited the Capitol to speak with lawmakers. There were no reports of violence.
“If they had a sword, they’d cut your head off,” protesters shouted. Some carried signs saying “Islam equals Death.”
Anti-Islamic protesters also disrupted a similar rally about a month ago in Texas.
The protest in Oklahoma comes about two weeks after a gunman shot dead three young Muslims near the University of North Carolina, riling Muslim activists who have demanded that U.S. state and federal authorities investigate the detained suspect for possible hate crimes.
The “Oklahoma Muslim Day at the Capitol” was organized by the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and supported by the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, whose members helped escort attendees into the Capitol and past the protesters.
“The protesters outside are protesting all that America is about – the freedom of expression,” said Tariq Sattar, board member for CAIR Oklahoma.
“It doesn’t matter what religion you are, you should be able to have freedom,” Sattar said.
A few lawmakers in the socially conservative state have previously made statements against Muslims, including Republican Representative John Bennett, who has said Islam is “a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.”
He posted on Facebook that he was attending the organized protest in response to the rally.
Reporting by Heide Brandes; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Beech