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Engaging Communities to Combat Islamophobia in Oklahoma

Islamophobia is a widespread issue in the United States, affecting millions of lives with profiling of Muslim people, misunderstandings of the faith, and outright bigotry. Just last year, research revealed a high level of distrust towards Muslims It exposed unfounded concerns about extremism and found that two in five non-Muslim Americans consider Islam to be "incompatible with American values."

CAIR-Oklahoma, a chapter of the nationwide Council on American-Islamic Relations, was established in 2006 by a group of local Muslims. It is, at its core, a civil rights advocacy group. According to its executive director, Adam Soltani, its mission is to "enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding."

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Education, Engagement, Advocacy

In the seven years since Soltani stepped into his current role, the organization founded a Civil Rights Department, a Government Affairs Department, and a Community Outreach Department and has grown from one staff member to four. The organization also relies on a fantastic team of interns, board members, and volunteers.

CAIR-Oklahoma assists people facing discrimination in Oklahoma and works to protect the rights of the Muslim community in the state. They do this by creating Know Your Rights resources, hosting workshops, and offering webinars. In addition, they actively approach employers and educators to provide the resources and knowledge needed to prevent possible discrimination.

Its full-time Government Affairs Department focuses on education, engagement, and advocacy. This work is a reaction to staff members' personal experiences of being targeted by discriminatory legislation. It aims to educate elected leaders about Islam, inform the Muslim community about the democratic process, and create meaningful opportunities for those groups to engage with one another. Both parties are then encouraged to use what they learn to advocate for better legislation and understanding.

A great example of this work is CAIR's Oklahoma Muslim Day, now in its fifth year. While it began as a basic introduction to the state capitol aimed at Muslims living in Oklahoma, it's now a full-fledged celebration of advocacy and education for the community.

A Fit-for-Purpose Solution

"Before we used Norton Small Business, our computer systems were not secure," Soltani tells us. "My biggest fear was that we would get infected with a virus or malware and lose more than a decade of hard work." The expansion of the CAIR-Oklahoma office called for better security in its work environment, so they decided to try Norton.

Prior to using the software, the organization once spent over 50 hours of valuable time resolving a successful malware attack that nearly took down its entire network. After this incident, Soltani and his team installed Norton Small Business, and he reports that there hasn't been a security breach since.

Using the Norton security features has given Soltani peace of mind, knowing that all of the organization's files are safe. "We are now able to keep our files and computer network secure," he says, "and not waste valuable time we could be using to educate and serve our fellow Oklahomans. … I can confidently say that CAIR-Oklahoma would not be as successful as we are today without TechSoup."


Freeing Up Resources

Now that CAIR-Oklahoma uses Norton Small Business, it's able to direct more resources and time towards raising awareness of the democratic process within the Muslim community and advocating for better legislation for Oklahoman Muslims. Soltani has a vision that his children's lives will not be defined by the Islamophobia that he has experienced: discrimination that has always been outside of his control.

"I have committed seven years of my life to this work," says Soltani, "and will commit another seven and another seven after that if that is what it takes to witness the day that my child is judged not by the color of his skin or the religion he adheres to, but rather by the content of his character."

Additional Resources: Nonprofit Security