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State Senator

Saud Anwar

Representing East Hartford, Ellington, East Windsor and South Windsor

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Senators Anwar and Slap Lead Bipartisan Plan to Secure State Bonding for Security in Places of Worship

Rash of state, national and international incidents prompts concern for safety of CT congregants


State Senator Saud Anwar addresses the audience Tuesday in the State Capitol while calling for additional protections for individuals in places of worship.

HARTFORD – Two Democratic state senators today led a bipartisan group of legislators and faith leaders to propose setting aside $5 million in the upcoming state bond package to help the congregants of Connecticut synagogues, mosques and churches remain more secure from domestic hate groups by installing various security measures such as remote door entry systems, video monitoring systems, and shatter-proof windows – the same type of improvements the state offered public schools in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings.

State Senators Dr. Saud Anwar (D-South Windsor) and Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) spoke today with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faith leaders and Democratic and Republican legislators, all of whom who support the houses of worship security bonding plan.

“We don’t yet have all the facts and details regarding the arson attack in New Haven, but no one should feel unsafe or unwelcome in their place of worship,” said Sen. Anwar. “Churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are pillars of our communities where people gather, joining together as one. In this current environment, where religious groups may feel threatened, this bonding will create a sense of resiliency and protection. Irrespective of the situation in New Haven, we must show everyone in our community that we are strong, and join together as one people.”

“We’re seeing a lot of attacks on Jewish, Muslim and some Christian churches across America, and some right here in Connecticut. These attacks strike at the heart of our social fabric, tearing at people’s faith in the very places where they should feel secure and at peace,” Sen. Slap said. “It’s rather sad, but I know many houses of worship are now reacting to increased acts of violence in the same way that public schools did after Columbine and Sandy Hook. So we’re coming together today, regardless of political party, regardless of religious belief, to try and provide some comfort to the people of Connecticut. It’s critical people not feel intimidated when they go to church or synagogue or mosque to live their faith.”

Today’s announcement comes after several high-profile incidents at Connecticut mosques and synagogues.

In late March 2019 – two weeks after a white supremacist killed 51 people in a New Zealand mosque shooting – a person threatened to burn down the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, and disparaged its members with racist and homophobic epithets. In December 2016 the New Haven Islamic Center received a letter calling Muslims “vile and filthy people.” The letter was addressed to “the children of Satan” and signed “Americans for a Better Way.”

In November 2015 – the same month a terrorist attack in Paris killed 130 people – a man fired four rifle shots into the Baitul Aman Mosque in Meriden.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were 39 anti-Semitic incidents in Connecticut in 2018, including 19 instances of harassment, 19 acts of vandalism, and one assault. That is lower than the 49 total acts in 2017, but higher than the 38 acts in 2016 and the 26 acts in 2015.

In January 2017, as part of a nation-wide hoax, bomb threats were called in to Jewish Community Centers in West Hartford and Woodbridge.

On its website, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) of Montgomery, Alabama has identified six hate groups operating in Connecticut, including two chapters of the anti-Muslim group Act for America, the neo-Nazi group The Daily Stormer, and the white nationalist movement Identity Evropa.

The SPLC is the premier U.S. non-profit organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists, including the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazi movement, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, antigovernment militias, Christian Identity adherents and others.

The houses of worship security bonding plan would be written into the 2019 state bonding bill, Senate Bill 876, final details of which are still being negotiated.

The houses of worship security bonding plan would generally follow the same format as Public Act 13-3, which established the School Security Competitive Grant Program to assist public and non-public schools in improving their security infrastructure.

In that instance, community leaders, emergency management directors, educational professionals and emergency responders developed comprehensive school security plans that were reviewed and approved by the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

Common school security upgrades funded under that program include electronic door locks, window film, card access control systems, six-foot high or higher fencing, traffic control bollards, lighting, office reconfiguration, surveillance cameras, video archiving systems, panic buttons, door replacement, and intercom/phone systems.

 

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