Who is John Bennett?
John Bennett is an anti-Muslim public official that has previously served as chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party and as a member of Oklahoma House of Representatives.
While not currently active in Oklahoma politics, Bennett used his unsuccessful 2022 congressional campaign to reinforce his past anti-Muslim and anti-Indigenous viewpoints.
Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) was elected to the Oklahoma state House of Representatives in 2011. Rep. Bennett promoted several anti-Muslim and Islamophobic viewpoints and policies during his time in the House.
In one instance, Local Oklahoman spiritual leader Imam Imad Enchassi reported, that during an encounter with Bennett: “John Bennett looked me in the eye and told me that he was going to demolish my mosque and every mosque in town. He looked me in the eye and told me that I was the biggest threat for the state of Oklahoma.”
In 2017, three Muslim students – two of them high schoolers – requested to meet with Rep. Bennett but were required to fill out a questionnaire beforehand. Questions on the forms included: “Do you beat your wife?” , “Mohammed was a killer of pagans, Christians and Jews that did not agree with him. Do you agree with this example?”, and “Do you denounce the terrorist organization Hamas?”
These questions further perpetuated the Islamophobic notion that Muslims are inherently misogynistic, violent, and should be suspected of supporting terrorism. It was found that ACT For America prepared the questionnaire for Rep. Bennett.
In an August 2014 Facebook post, Bennett called on Oklahomans to be “wary” of Muslim-Americans and falsely claimed the Quran says non-Muslims “should be killed.”
In his post, Bennett stated in part: “The Quran clearly states that non Muslims should be killed … Be wary of the individuals who claim to be ‘Muslim American’. Be especially wary if you’re a Christian.”
In response, the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-OK) called on state Republican Party leaders to denounce the anti-Muslim comments and asked for an apology from Bennett.
Bennett then doubled down, telling constituents in Sallisaw, Okla., that Islam’s goal is “the destruction of Western civilization from within,” that the faith is 90 percent “violence” and that Islam “is a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out.” He added that he is “not going to stand back and let [Muslims] push Islam into our nation.”
A broad spectrum of Oklahoma voices rejected Bennett and Weston’s remarks, including some members of the Oklahoma Republican Party.
Anna Flat, who chairs the Carter County Republican Party, wrote, “These kinds of statements from Representatives and officials are ignorant and unacceptable from a purely liberty perspective…How would you like it if the Christian religion were the minority and your elected representatives were inciting people to “be wary” of you?”
Similarly, Tina Kelly, who chairs the Republican Party in Oklahoma’s precinct 32 write, “As an active member of the Oklahoma Republican Party, I am dismayed that you as our chief representative to those outside the party would defend the Islamophobic remarks of anyone, much less an elected official bearing our brand.”
According to data from a study by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, in 2013, Bennett twice supported anti-Islam and anti-“foreign law” legislation, as a sponsor (HB 1959) and co-sponsor (HB 1060).
Rep. Bennett enjoys a close relationship with actors of the U.S Islamophobia network, including Bridget Gabriel’s ACT For America and Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy.
Rep. Bennett’s 2017 questionnaire was traced back to ACT For America, indicating their involvement in its preparation for Rep. Bennett.
Oklahoma Republican Party Chairman Dave Weston supported Bennett’s anti-Muslim rhetoric.
Weston even added his own anti-Muslim remarks saying: “Islam has basically existed for the last fourteen hundred years by the sword.” Weston also told state media outlets: “There is so much overwhelming evidence around the world that the fundamental beliefs of Islam authorize anything but peace until they become dominant.”
In 2021, John Bennett was elected chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party and served the position for one year.