Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?

| | Comments (10) | TrackBacks (3)

A few days ago I wrote about OETA's scheduled program "Islam in Oklahoma," which aired Friday night, and about whether the people invited to participate in the discussion would provide a balanced and complete view of the topic. (Because of unexpected family schedule complications, I didn't get to see the show.)

A reader contacted OETA to raise the question directly and got a reply that began:

Thank you for sharing your concerns about Islam in Oklahoma. Please note that OETA worked with the Oklahoma Governor's Council on Ethnic Diversity to select the panelists and to ensure a balanced panel.

I assumed from the name that this council had representatives from the Hispanic-, Asian-, African-, and other hyphenated-American communities. Oklahoma has had influxes of many different ethnic groups over a century of statehood: Lebanese, Russian Jews, Czechs, Italians, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese, Hmong, to name just a few.

In Googling for mentions to "Islam in Oklahoma," I found this reference on the Oklahoma Women's Network blog

As a followup to PBS' recently aired "America At A Crossroads" series, OETA has taped a program featuring Oklahoma Muslim leaders. I urge you to watch this program on Friday, May 4th at 9:00 p.m on your OETA channel....Two of the many outstanding women leaders in Oklahoma's Muslim community are Sheryl Siddiqui, Director of Community Relations and American Outreach with the Islamic Society of Tulsa, and Marjan Seirafi-Pour, Chairperson of the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council.

That's interesting, I thought. I knew who Sheryl Siddiqui was, and that she was slated to be a panelist on the program, but I'd never heard of Marjan Seirafi-Pour. And I thought it was interesting that a Muslim leader was the head of this Ethnic American Advisory Council, given the relatively small number of Muslims in Oklahoma compared to other ethnic groups.

So I Googled Marjan Seirafi-Pour and hit this agenda for the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council from August 2005. Here is the list of council members:

Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana, Chair
Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, Vice-Chair/Secretary
Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Mohammad Farzaneh
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Karen E. Bak
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi

The membership doesn't seem very diverse or very representative of Oklahoma's ethnic heritage. Where are the Czechs from Prague, Italians from Krebs, and Russians from Hartshorne? Where are the Greeks and Filipinos?

According to the Governor's web page about the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC), the monolithic membership is intentional. "Ethnic" appears to be a euphemism for something different:

On May 27, 2004, Governor Brad Henry issued Executive Order 04-21, which created the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council, which is to be made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma, is to:

1. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor on the development and implementation of policies, plans, and programs relating to the needs and values of the Ethnic American community;

2. Provide advice and assistance to the Governor in matters involving civil liberties, equal rights protection and freedom of religion of the Ethnic American community;

3. Develop, coordinate and assist other public and private organizations with understanding problems concerning the Ethnic American community;

4. Conduct training programs for community leadership;

5. Cooperate with the Department of Education in advising and assisting school districts concerning Ethnic American issues; and

6. Secure appropriate recognition of Ethnic American accomplishments and contributions to the state of Oklahoma.

All Council members are appointed by the Governor.

Here is the current list of members:

Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour

Vice-Chair / Secretary

Dr. Riaz Ahmad
Malaka A. Elyazgi
Mohammad Farzaneh
Dr. Fayyaz H. Hashmi
Dr. Basel S. Hassoun
Dr. Mohammad Karami
Dr. Sandra Kaye Rana
Wes Salous

Let's strip away the silly "Ethnic American" euphemism and take the detailed information at face value. The council is to be "made up of from five to 15 representatives of Ethnic Americans of the Middle East/Near East community of the state of Oklahoma." If they really mean Middle East/Near East, there should be some Oklahomans of Israeli heritage -- Israel is in the Middle East -- perhaps some Armenian Christians, Lebanese Christians, Coptic Christians from Egypt, maybe someone from an old-line Lebanese merchant family like Bayouth or Beshara or Coury or Elias or Saied. The French teacher from my high school is Jewish and from Morocco and has lived in Oklahoma for at least 30 years. Wouldn't he be a good pick for such a council?

I may be wrong, and I haven't checked every name on the list, but I'd be willing to bet every one of the board members is a Muslim. Here are a couple who are for sure. I'll check the other names and add info here as I find it.

Dr. Riaz Ahmad, a biology professor at University of Central Oklahoma, is quoted in a departmental newsletter: "We have also been to Mecca, Saudi Arabia twice to do pilgrimage."

Malaka A. Elyazgi's husband Mohamed was quoted as a spokesman for the mosque in Norman following the October 1, 2005, suicide bombing on the OU campus. He was a business partner in a small shop in Oklahoma City with Mufid Abdulqader, who was indicted as a fundraiser for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, of which Abdulqader's half-brother is the supreme political leader.

(Abdulqader's story is frightening. He was a civil engineering student at OSU, worked at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and then went to work as an engineer with the City of Dallas. In his spare time, his rock band performed at Hamas fundraisers, where he sang lyrics like, "With Koran and Jihad, we will gain our homes back, hey, hey, hey! My precious eyes are for Palestine, the agony of death is precious, killing Jews . . . Death to Jews, is precious. Jews will not fear threats, only action. So Hamas, hit them with the shoe bottoms of Islam and Hamas!")

So why would Gov. Brad Henry issue an executive order to set up a special council for Muslims, giving it a name designed to hide its true purpose?

Some further Googling turns up a story in Wednesday's Oklahoman explaining why OETA is airing "Islam in Oklahoma," and suggesting that I'm right in my assumption that the GEAAC is really all about Islam:

State Muslims challenge TV show
By Judy Gibbs Robinson
Staff Writer

Oklahoma Muslim leaders will respond this week to what they say were some inaccuracies in the recent public television series "America at a Crossroads."

The Governor's Ethnic-American Advisory Council requested a chance to set the record straight after previewing the series before it ran on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority from April 15 through 20.

"We thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light," said Marjaneh Seirafi-Pour, the council's chairman.

OETA Director John McCarroll agreed to let council members preview the series and gave them 30 minutes of air time starting at 9 p.m. Friday to respond.

"They were concerned there might be a backlash in Oklahoma because most of it did deal with Islamic extremists," McCarroll said.

Feedback to discussion

The station invited viewers to submit questions and comments and got about a dozen each day, McCarroll said. Those responses will form the backbone of a panel discussion by Sheryl Siddiqui of Tulsa, Imad Enchassi of Oklahoma City and David R. Vishanoff of Norman. OETA's Gerry Bonds will moderate.

Siddiqi is director of outreach/community relations for the Islamic Society of Tulsa. Enchassi is president of the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City. Vishanoff is a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Oklahoma.

The series

The Public Broadcasting Service series "America at a Crossroads" consisted of 11 documentaries exploring challenges confronting the United States in a post-9/11 world. Topics included the war on terrorism, conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the experience of American troops serving abroad and the struggle for balance in the Muslim world.

(Hat tip to American Infidel.)

The story has GEAAC speaking on behalf of the Islamic faith. GEAAC "requested a chance to set the record straight," because they "thought there were a couple of segments that did not put Islam in a positive light."

3 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Is there only one kind of Ethnic American in Oklahoma?.

TrackBack URL for this entry:

» GEAAC is back from BatesLine

Not much time or energy to write, as I'm getting ready for my speech Friday to Saint Augustine Academy's fall banquet. I did want to note something that has received little notice in the uproar over State Rep. Rex Duncan's decision to refuse a "Centenn... Read More

State Rep. Mike Reynolds is putting the focus in the recent Centennial Koran uproar where it belongs: Why did Gov. Brad Henry create a state agency devoted promoting the interests of the Muslim religion, and why does it exist under a misleading name? I... Read More

Urban Tulsa Weekly reporter Brian Ervin digs deeper into the controversy over the Governor's Ethnic American Advisory Council (GEAAC) and its gift of a special centennial edition of the Koran to state legislators. As BatesLine first reported back in Ma... Read More


So, basically, the governor has a "Ethnic council" which has only Muslims on it?

How do you dig this stuff up, Michael? This is one of the most revealing articles I've read in a long time.

Oklahomans, especially those who consider themselves "ethnic", should be completely and totally outraged and should contact the governor about this obviously unfairly balanced advisory council.
There is no way ethnic groups in Oklahoma can be fairly represented by a group of Muslims.
That would be like sending Christians to represent Satanists on some religion advisory panel.

Joey Author Profile Page said:

"So why would Gov. Brad Henry issue an executive order to set up a special council for Muslims, giving it a name designed to hide its true purpose?"

Indeed. Any guesses?

Paul Tay said:

So, who da token Chinese dude?

Joey, no guesses yet. I think some further digging is indicated.

Paul, you could be the "token Chinese dude." You just have to recite the shahada first.

Paul Tay said:

NO thanks. Nuthin' against my Islamic friends, but, I am sticking to Buddhist Jewness. Better food.

Brian Blackwell said:

Why is it that WASP's aren't ever considered an Ethnic group?

ethnic - adj. 1. pertaining to or characteristic of a people, esp. a group (ethnic group) sharing a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

Is it because the perception is that we are still in the majority and therefore control the power structure?

I'll admit that I haven't done a great deal of digging in the census numbers, but I don't think that we are in fact a majority any longer. I could be wrong about that, but the gap isn't all that large if there is a gap any longer.

Michael Scott Lawrence Patrick Morgan, D.Sc., N.D. said:

Following many years of studious observations, I "stumbled over" several words of WISDOM, i.e.
"..beware those who cause divisions amongst you." Amd with militarians from von Clausewitz to Hannibal to Alexander effectively utilizing the divide-&-conquer techniques in exemplary fashion, I long ago concluded that, protestations and assertions to the contrary, the Creator of all created only one(1) race of humankind, aka The Human Race. An honest study of the rationale of any dissenters will evince their weak ulterior motives, shallow vision, and evil alliances. The most blatant current example may be that of "Liberation Theology"; no more than the charade of communism-by-any-other-name, its most strident and energetic spokespersons seek only ever-more-influence over any/all they may, by any means(but preferably the means by which more people are killed! ex.: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, & the Ayatollah-du-jour!) As our friend Glenn Beck often emphasizes, we ought to be more & more focused on our strengths, and good-things-in-common...while we still have choices available to us!

In a November 18 article in the Tulsa World, Randy Krehbiel writes about the half-page ads placed by some people who disapprove of the actions taken by Rep. Rex Duncan and others. Mr. Krehbiel points out that the Ethnic American Advisory Council is "chaired by a Muslim". Does he really not know that all the council members are Muslims, or does he not think that is worth mentioning? That kind of writing is why I have not subscribed to that paper for several years now.

Sara said:

"There is no way ethnic groups in Oklahoma can be fairly represented by a group of Muslims.
That would be like sending Christians to represent Satanists on some religion advisory panel."

Wait, are Satanists a type of Christian? I'm not sure how this comment makes sense.

Marsha Mellow said:

find me some info on ethnic groups so i can do my proj for 4th hour!!! yo yo yo! yiggity yo! keepin it street style yo!
so this was

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 6, 2007 1:14 AM.

Bell's gets help was the previous entry in this blog.

The definitive story of the Mastersingers, the Weather Forecast, and the Highway Code is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed:
[What is this?]