This morning, the Hartford City Council invited local imams to come open September Council meetings with Islamic invocations.
In the announcement, the Hartford City Council called the plan “an act of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.” Via email, the Council alluded to the ongoing debate in Manhattan about the proposed Ground Zero mosque, and stated that it was the hope of the Council that Islamic invocations would counteract hostility toward Muslims and create a sense of inclusiveness.
That act set off such an immediate controversy that Council president Jo Winch had to schedule a press conference at 1:00 P.M.
Apparently the Council’s welcoming of Muslim prayer was too hot for the U.S. Senate candidates in Connecticut to handle. PJM contacted both Richard Blumenthal’s and Linda McMahon’s campaign headquarters — both located in Hartford — and received no response. (Both organizations fielded the call, but neither would provide a representative to interview.)
Winch told PJM in an exclusive interview that much of the response sent directly to the Council and appearing in the media has been negative. That included what she described as racist email sent to her office.
Even the positive feedback which has come to the Council, Winch continued, has expressed reservation about the timing of the plan. While supporters of the decision understood the Council’s intention to nurture solidarity in the diverse urban area of Hartford, noted Winch, they assessed that feelings were still raw about 9/11 — this Saturday being the ninth anniversary of that attack.
Michael Francoeur, a communications expert operating in eastern Connecticut and western Massachusetts, observed that the timing tended to undermine any worthwhile intentions. New Haven resident Elaine Taylor was looking for more detail about the motivation of the Council to introduce this practice, which she also questioned when the U.S. Supreme Court was asked to review prayer in schools. Old Greenwich resident Jack O’Dwyer — who owns Manhattan-based J.R. O’Dwyer Inc. — commented to PJM:
If there is going to be prayer, then let it not be discriminatory. Every religion should be invited.
This is actually now being considered — Winch told PJM that the Council may rotate representatives of spiritual groups.