Religious And Political Leaders Denounce ‘Hate Speech’ And Bigotry

December 15, 2015

Hartford Courant

Religious and political leaders urge Connecticut residents to reject messages of hate against Muslims

HARTFORD – Connecticut religious and political leaders Monday condemned what they said have been messages of “hatred and bigotry” by some U.S. politicians and others, and urged residents to unite in the face of terrorist acts.

They warned that many in the Muslim-American community, in Connecticut and across the nation, are being subjected to bigotry and threatened in the wake of the San Bernardino, Calif., murders because the killers were Muslim.

The news conference at the Legislative Office Building was called in an effort to discuss ways of combating bigotry and the hatred being directed at members of the Muslim-American community and others as a result of terrorist attacks.

Dr. Saud Anwar, former South Windsor mayor and co-chairman of the American Muslim Peace Initiative, said his message to the Muslim community in response to such acts of hatred is that, “You are as American as anyone else.” He also said the “Muslim community needs to be vigilant in spotting and stopping terrorism.”

As examples of the issues facing Connecticut’s Muslim-American community, Anwar cited last month’s shooting at a Meriden mosque, and the alleged harassment of two brothers of Middle Eastern ancestry at a Prospect school. He also said he’s talked to a Muslim woman who he said has been afraid to wear her hijab to go shopping for fear of being abused or attacked.

No one was injured in the Meriden shooting, which left the mosque’s wall pockmarked with bullet holes. Police have a suspect in that case, and an FBI official said Monday that the investigation is continuing.

Monday’s event brought together leaders of Connecticut’s Muslim, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and Sikh communities, as well as Democratic and Republican state officials and representatives of civil liberty groups.

Several of the speakers referred to comments made by Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson, both of whom have been harshly criticized for their calls to prevent Muslims from entering the U.S.

Standing up for what is right is not a partisan issue,” Anwar said as he introduced Len Fasano, the state Senate’s GOP leader.

“Hate speech has no place in America,” said Fasano, who later noted that he rejected Trump’s comments about Muslims at the time they were made public. “When we have leaders preaching hate, there is just no place [for it] in America. Republican or Democrat, it just doesn’t matter.”

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said she was honored to stand with faith leaders and politicians from both parties “to speak out against the hatred and intolerance that has poisoned civil discourse in this nation.”

Atif Qurasihi, executive director of the American Muslim Peace Initiative, called Islamic State “a band of thugs” who don’t represent Islam or the 2 billion Muslims worldwide. He warned that the U.S. has recently seen “a surge in hate crimes” and warned that such a trend is exactly what Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is seeking.

“Our unity is ISIS’ defeat,” Qurasihi said.

Stephen Glassman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, warned that the U.S. “has a long history of abrogating civil rights” in times of crisis. He pointed to the internment of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II and the McCarthy era of red-baiting in the 1950s, and noted that America has always come to regret such incidents.

Now, Glassman said, “fear has once again taken over the nation,” adding that the U.S. must not accept the kind of bigotry and harassment that’s being perpetrated against Muslim-Americans. “Americans must remember that we have an example to set for the world,” he said.

“We need to come together,” said Rabbi Debra Cantor, of B’nai Tikvoh Sholom in Bloomfield, to condemn the “hate speech” being leveled against Muslims.
Swarnjit Singh, a Sikh community leader of the Southington Gurdwara, called Trump’s and Carson’s anti-Muslim comments “a very wrong thing.” Singh also warned there have been threats and harassment of members of the Sikh community in recent weeks.

Singh pointed out that many in his own religious group came to America to escape persecution and war. “If we are not safe and sound in our America, where are we going to go?” he asked.