CT: ISLAMIC COALITION SEEKING INVESTIGATION
Four groups are seeking an investigation into policies and attitudes directed toward Muslims and other minorities in the state’s prison system.
The groups have drafted a letter to Commissioner of Correction Theresa Lantz and said they are looking for more organizations, Muslim and non-Muslim, to sign on before they send it next week.
The action follows The Day’s report Saturday that a photograph of Bilal Ansari, the Muslim chaplain, or imam, at J.B. Gates Correctional Institution in Niantic, was defaced with Wite-Out and written over with a racial epithet last month.
The photograph was in the chaplain’s locked office, Department of Correction spokesman Brian Garnett said Tuesday. He said the department has referred the matter to state police for a criminal investigation.
Abdullah T. Antepli, coordinator of Islamic Chaplaincy & Interfaith Relations for the Hartford Seminary, said the Connecticut Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, the Berlin Mosque and the Harmony Foundation represent more than a dozen Islamic organizations.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg on this racial issue,” Antepli said. “This is not an individual unique incident. This is systemic.”
Garnett said he would not comment on a letter the commissioner had yet to receive.
According to documents obtained by The Day, at least four of 18 Muslim chaplains working within the Department of Correction have alleged racial and religious discrimination. Three have filed, or are in the process of filing, complaints with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
A total of 68 chaplains serve all denominations in the prison system, according to the department.
“Bilal’s case is not unique, not individual at all. We have had people say to them, ‘Oh, I hope you are not going to bomb us today.’ Or, ‘How is Osama Bin Laden?’ As if they are buddies. They are subjected to constant humiliation,” Antepli said.
As drafted, the letter also asks for diversity training in concert with the Islamic organizations in order to “avoid litigation.”
“It seems that this discrimination comes from fellow staff and upper management and is tolerated, perhaps even propagated, on every level,” the letter states.