Hartford, Conn. (WTNH) - A battle over religion is heating up in Hartford after the city council invites local Muslim leaders to say prayers before its city council meetings.
At the start of every city council meeting in Hartford a prayer is said. In the past, the invocation has been given by Christians of all denominations as well as rabbis.
The council says it's trying to be inclusive by inviting local imams to say a muslim prayer, especially after all the anti-Islam events going on throughout the country.
City Council President rJo Winch says details about the City Council's invitation to a Muslim Imam to do the invocation before next Monday's City Council meeting have been twisted and distorted, in part, thanks to a press release that contains statements like: "bring your own rocks for the Muslim stoning."
That press release set off an avalanche of angry messages.
"These are emails that I have received from residents that are very troubling to me," rjo Winch said. "Some of the conversations they say, some of the names that they call, some of the racist stuff that is being put in here... that let's me know the City of Hartford has a long way to go in mending bridges around race."
Winch says some peopel are upset the City Council is allowing a Muslim prayer, others are upset they allow any prayer at all, and still others are upset about the timing.
"I have my doubts," Tom Fitzpatrick of Hartford said. "I really don't want to say them but I do have doubts about the whole thing."
Fitzpatrick says he's been keeping a close eye on the controversy in New York over the Ground Zero mosque as well as the potential Quran burning in Florida. He says the timing of the council's prayer isn't the best.
"Because it's too vivid. That's 9-11. That's coming up Saturday," Fitzpatrick said. "I think, that was nine years ago, you know, they're vivid memories."
But that's exactly why the council is doing it, in response to what they're calling, recent anti-Islamic events throughout the country. Some on these streets wholeheartedly support the measure.
"I think it's a good idea, because, you know, everybody should be entitled to their own religion," Kenny Widdecomb of New Britain said. "I believe that, you know, they are being mistreated.
Wednesday is the last day of Ramadam and a big Muslim holiday, Bayram, will be celebrated Thursday. That is also Rosh Hashanah, a high holy day for Jews. And again, September 11th is Saturday. This man says, he doesn't support the prayer but he doesn't support any prayer in council chambers.
"I think that religion and government probably should be separate," Doug Winslow of Newington said.
As it stands right now, the Muslim prayer would only be said for the next month.
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