On Monday, June 24, 2013, twenty-five members and religious leaders of the Metrowest interfaith community met with Wilnelia Rivera, the External Affairs Director for the Patrick administration to discuss the slight that the Islamic community felt from the governor’s office after the Boston Marathon Bombing. Other leaders present included Susan Thel of the Framingham Quakers, Michael Furstberg of the Workmen’s Circle, Dr. Asif Razvi of the ICB in Wayland, Mr. Anwar Kasmi, a board member of the I.S.B.C.C., and Shaheen Akhtar, leader of the Wayland interfaith book group. The issue was that the Muslim religious community felt slighted when a secular Muslim leader was selected to participate in the interfaith memorial service attended by President and Mrs. Obama shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing. Their understanding was that an invitation had originally been extended to Imam Suhaib Webb, and was then rescinded the evening before.
According to Ms. Rivera, an interfaith memorial service plan had been created before the President of the United States announced that he would be attending. That plan was for an outdoor service in an open space. Thirty to forty clergy members from all faiths were to be included. When President Obama decided to attend the ceremony it had to be replanned in order to be appropriate for a national audience and the needs of the President. So, about thirty-five clergy members were not ever officially invited and the original people on the list were kept. Governor Patrick’s office made a fast track decision without intending to slight Imam Webb or the Muslim community. Ms. Rivera listened to the concerns of the community to bring them to the governor’s attention. Among the concerns were that the person selected to represent Islam was not known in any of the local Muslim communities. The point was made that the governor could have reached a better decision based on the other people selected for the service.
In order to move forward, the following recommendations will be brought to Governor Patrick’s attention by his External Affairs Director, Ms. Rivera:
- That the governor help bring positive attention to the voice of moderate Muslims, which are the majority in this country.
- That the governor get to know his Muslim religious leaders
- That the governor speak out against Islamophobia publicly
- Identify opportunities that the governor can participate in to raise the voices of moderate Muslims
- That the governor’s office work with the I.S.B.C.C. and others about upcoming Muslim holidays and events that the governor could support
- That the governor understand the missed opportunity his fast track decision has caused