HARTFORD — Seventeen religious and political speakers spoke to a crowded Hartford Seminary on Friday, taking a public stand against religious intolerance and Islamophobia.
The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut organized the conference in response to recent hate crimes, such as the stabbing of the Muslim taxi driver in New York City, and recent anti-Islam rhetoric, such as the protests outside of a Bridgeport mosque and the hate mail that has flooded the Hartford City Council over the idea to allow an imam to pray an Islamic prayer before a city council meeting.
Hartford Seminary President Heidie Hadsell said the the seminary didn’t hesitate to host the event. “When any of us are attacked, it’s important to show our love and solidarity,” she said.
Muslims at the conference said many of them came to the U.S. in chase of the American dream. Dr. Reza Mansoor, president of the MCCT, said hate speech is un-American.
“So often it’s those who call themselves patriotic that fuel that fire,” he said, noting that many politicans are standing idly by while other Americans lash out at Muslims.
Though times are hard now, he said he’s opitimistic about the future. In the past, Jews, Japense and African Americans were all persecuted in the U.S.
“This too will pass,” Mansoor said. “America will not fade to bigotry.”
Rev. David Good, of Old Lyme Congregational Church, was one of several faith leaders to speak at the event. Referring to Ecclisiastes 4, which reads “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken,” said that if Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Native Americans came together and created a 6-fold chord, it would be almost impossible to break. He called it the sacred fabric of America.
Good added that the Christians who have protested against Islam, do not represent him.
“These so-called Christians to not speak for me, do not speak for the church and do not speak for the Jesus that I know and love,” he said.
The way to fight Islamophobia, he said, is to “roll out the red carpet of hospitality,” and be in community with people of all faiths.
John Mertens, Independent candidate for U.S. Senate (http://johnmertens2010.tumblr.com/post/1199241507/debate), and a brain child of the event, was one of five politicians who spoke at the event. Warren Mosler, also an Independent candidate for U.S. Senate, and three Hartford city counselors also spoke at the event.
Mertens said being American comes with many freedoms, including the freedom to be ignorant.
“Let’s replace ingorance with friendships,” he said.
By doing that, he said, the country will be a better place, a place that is, “indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”The conference concluded with pearls of wisdom from six of the state’s religious leaders.
Rev. Kate Heichler, president of the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, said the rise of Islamophobia is a moment to be seized.
“Voices of hatred and rage don’t have to be the loudest and don’t have to stay in the air,” she said. “We don’t have to raise our voices, we just have to use our voices to talk, to sing and to pray. This is our moment.”
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