‘Answer evil with good’: Metro Detroit religious leaders address Libya violence
- By Lauren Abdel-Razzaq
- The Detroit News
Dearborn Heights — Metro Detroit religious leaders on Saturday emphasized the need for a peaceful response to recent violence that resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans during an assault on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
“Our basic message from the community is that there is no justification for vicious behavior, no to violence, no to extremism,” Victor Ghalib Begg, senior adviser of the Michigan Muslim Community Council, said at a news conference at the Islamic House of Wisdom.
“We urge all Muslims to address and peacefully oppose any provocative or aggressive acts against their faith — emphasis on peacefully.”
Begg was joined by Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi, the leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom, who said the violence should be condemned as well as the abuse of freedom of speech. Elahi denounced as “irresponsible” the anti-Muslim video that sparked widespread discord in the Middle East and played a role in the Libya attacks.
“The man they insulted is a holy leader for all the Muslim world who is honored and remembered in our prayers every day at least five times a day, so we understand why the Muslim community is upset and pained and bothered with this kind of irresponsible abuse of freedom of speech,” he said.
“At the same time, we have serious problems with some of their reactions from some areas in the Muslim world, especially Libya, that caused death and destruction.
“We consider that not only an act against America but Islam, because our faith teaches us to answer evil with good.”
The Rev. Lawrence Ventline, who works with the Archdiocese of Detroit, agreed the film was designed to provoke.
“Smut is smut, as is anything denigrating human dignity, whether it’s a cartoon or a viral video,” he said. “We need to press somehow to come together to be in solidary on a regular basis, to deal with the injustices people feel as their toes are being stepped on in the poverty of some of these nations.”
The Obama administration has denounced the movie, aiming to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates. The film, called “Innocence of Muslims,” ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.
Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the administration’s response “beautiful.”
“The Obama administration’s response was excellent and balanced in two ways: First the U.S. government didn’t sanction or support that film,” Walid said. “Secondly, they came out and denounced the violent acts but recognized that it represented only a small part of the Muslim population.”
Also taking part in the news conference Saturday were Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, leader of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, and Imam Ishack Samoura, with the Islamic Center of as-Salaam in Detroit.
The dialogue came on the same day as al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen praised the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and called for more attacks to expel American embassies from Muslim nations.
The statement, posted Saturday on Islamic militant websites, suggested al-Qaida was trying to co-opt the wave of angry protests in the Muslim world over the anti-Muslim film.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula said the killing of Stevens was “the best example” for those attacking embassies.
It said protesters’ aim should be to “expel the embassies of America from the lands of the Muslims” and called on protests to continue in Muslim nations “to set the fires blazing at these embassies.”
Also on Saturday, Pope Benedict XVI appealed for religious freedom in the Middle East, calling it fundamental for stability in a region bloodied by sectarian strife.
Benedict spoke on the second day of his visit to Lebanon, a country with the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East.
“Let us not forget that religious freedom is a fundamental right from which many other rights stem,” he said, speaking in French to government officials, foreign diplomats and religious leaders at the president’s palace in Mount Lebanon in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
He held up Lebanon, which is still rebuilding from a devastating 1975-90 civil war largely fought on sectarian lines, as an example of coexistence for the region.