Before a group of Muslim students could ask Oklahoma State Rep. John Bennett (R-OK2) some questions, the Republican demanded they answer some wildly Islamophobic ones of his first—and then didn't meet with them at all.
According to Adam Soltani, state director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Bennett's staff handed a trio of Muslim students from Tulsa's Peace Academy a nine-part questionnaire as they attempted to speak with Bennett while visiting the capital last Thursday for Oklahoma's third annual "Muslim Day"—in which lawmakers meet with constituents to discuss issues affecting the local Muslim community.
The students explained that when they got to Bennett's office, they were greeted by an aide, who handed them the form and told them to fill it out in order to schedule a future appointment with the congressman.
Among the questions asked:
The Koran, the sunna of Mohammed and Sharia Law of all schools says that the husband can beat his wife. Do you beat your wife?
I have heard that, according to accepted Islamic sources, Mohammed, at age of 49, married a 6-year-old girl, and that he had sex with her when he was 52 and she was only 9 years old. Is that really true?
"Nobody should be vetted with stupid, Islamophobic, hateful, bigoted questions before they can meet with their representative," Soltani said in a video posted online shortly after the students were presented with the offensive questionnaire.
In a lengthy, error-riddled statement provided to local NBC affiliate KFOR, Bennett—who has called Islam "a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out"—insisted that he had not "refused" to meet with the students, but had already left his office for the day.
"That’s why I left the questionarre (sic) with instructions to my assistant," Bennett said. "If they wanted to visit with me about CAIR or Mulim (sic) Day to answer them, set an appointment with me, bring their Quran, Sharia Law Book and Muhammed Sunna back with them when they come and we would sit down and discuss the facts in the questionarre. (sic)"
The questionnaire appeared to have been written by the far right "Act for America" organization. Act for America is listed as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which calls it "far and away the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America."
In response to the incident, Oklahoma state Democrats blasted Bennett, calling him "an embarrassment to the Oklahoma Legislature."
"What will it take for our Governor and Republican Legislators to stand up and denounce Bennett’s behavior?" Democrats asked in a party statement.
For Soltani, Bennett's behavior wasn't entirely surprising, but amounted to a missed opportunity for both the Muslim community, and the lawmaker himself.
"I think many Muslims in our state would love to talk to him and tell their side of the story," Soltani told CNN. "He may not now or ever change his views of the story, but they just want to talk to him."