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Religious Coalition Holds Rally To Combat Muslim Prejudice

Decries Fear Of Islam And Opposition To Building Mosques

By MELISSA TRAYNOR

August 13, 2010

HARTFORD An alliance of local religious groups gathered Friday to publicly condemn what they called widespread and local fear of Islam. The rally on the north side of the state Capitol drew spiritual leaders and individuals from a variety of religious backgrounds.

Called by the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut during this holy month of Ramadan, the gathering of more than 100 people was organized in part to respond to the protesters who confronted Muslims at a mosque in Bridgeport last week.

Fear of Islam is spreading wildly in this country, coalition President Reza Mansoor told the group. He pointed to the battle over a proposed Islamic community center in lower Manhattan, which has prompted protests around the country of mosque construction projects.

"The spirit of anxiety that is now gripping our nation has now let hatred [impede] Muslims in prayer," he said. "And that is what is about to happen in Bridgeport."

In Bridgeport, Operation Save America, a Dallas-based fundamentalist Christian group, confronted worshippers at the Mafjid An-Noor Mosque. Members said the encounter included hate-filled speech.

At Friday's rally, the religious representatives included Eric Silver, the retired rabbi of Cheshire's Temple Beth David, who said he came out to speak on behalf of his community.

As a relative of refugees who escaped the Holocaust, Silver said he believes that people of all faiths should unite with Muslims and work toward a common goal. The basic human rights that one group fights for should not be denied to every other, he said.

"Muslims have a right to a house of worship near ground zero as much as members of every other faith do," Silver said.

"And here is why," the rabbi said. "If we deny them this, then we are stating that somehow the relationships of Muslims, all Muslims and in particular American Muslims, somehow link to the events of 9/11 in a way that that the lives of Jews and Christians do not that they are somehow not as American as the rest of us."

An Associated Press report is included in this story.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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