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Mayoral Candidate Faces Backlash After Saying She Wants to “Eradicate” Islam

Muslim leaders warned that Carol Hefner’s hateful rhetoric would have “a ripple effect” on the local Muslim community.

Oklahoma City mayoral candidate Carol Hefner speaks at a mayoral debate on January 25, 2022.

A far right candidate for mayor in Oklahoma City has been spewing hateful and dangerous rhetoric regarding Islam, stating in a debate last week that she wants to “get rid” of the religion entirely.

Carol Hefner, a conservative businesswoman seeking to unseat current Republican Mayor David Holt, claimed during a debate in January that Islam is inherently “oppressive” and “just like slavery.”

“It’s insipid,” Hefner said of Islam. “It should be eradicated from our culture, from our world, [and] unfortunately it has been here since the beginning of time.”

(Besides being blatantly Islamophobic, Hefner’s words are also factually inaccurate, as Islam was established in the 7th century CE.)

Hefner added that she doesn’t know how she would “get rid” of Islam, but that she “would like to have those conversations.”

There are around 30,000 Muslims in the state of Oklahoma — and many of them live in Oklahoma City, the largest municipality in the state and the city that Hefner hopes to lead.

Local Muslim leaders spoke out against her hateful rhetoric.

“She is talking about 1.9 billion Muslims. When she used the word ‘eradicated’ she is talking about eradicating 1.9 billion Muslims,” said Dr. Imad Enchassi, the Senior Imam for the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, adding that Hefner’s comments are “more than problematic” but also “plain dangerous and Islamophobic, to say the least.”

Adam Soltani, the executive director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma (CAIR-OK), agreed.

“Hate has a ripple effect,” Soltani pointed out, “and anytime anyone in a position of power or influence says something negative against the Muslim community we always brace ourselves and get concerned about hate and violence that has historically targeted our community.”

After being criticized by community members, Hefner tried to walk back her statements, saying that Soltani and Enchassi “took it personally” and were “looking for a reason not to like my comment.” In spite of video evidence showing the contrary, Hefner claimed that she wasn’t talking about ending Islam in general.

“I was talking about the opportunities here and how it differs here because we don’t have that hate and oppression and people can rise and I want to offer that opportunity to everybody,” she said.

Both Soltani and Enchassi have said that they’re willing to sit and speak with Hefner about the impact of her words. Hefner said that she’s open to the possibility.

Hefner, who is running as a political “outsider” in the city’s mayoral election, has a history of sharing racist social media posts and making bigoted statements.

In 2015, when then-President Barack Obama was greeted by protesters in Oklahoma waving the Confederate battle flag, Hefner expressed delight in seeing the racist symbol. “This happened — love it,” she wrote. Hefner also shared a post of Obama that compared the former president to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

On the campaign trail this year, Hefner claimed — without evidence — that the homeless population in Oklahoma City is increasing because people are being bussed in from California. Part of her plan to address homelessness in the city is to send people back to California — this, in spite of statistics on homelessness showing that three-fourths of people in her state without permanent residence are from Oklahoma.

The mayoral election in Oklahoma City will take place on Tuesday, February 8.

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