‘Answer evil with good’: Metro Detroit religious leaders address Libya violence


‘Answer evil with good’: Metro Detroit religious leaders address Libya violence

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.


Metro Detroit Muslim, Arab leaders condemn attack in Libya


Dawud Walid is photographed Dec. 17, 2011.

Dawud Walid is photographed Dec. 17, 2011. / MADALYN RUGGIERO/Special to the Free Press
Written by
Niraj Warikoo
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

Arab-American and Muslim leaders in metro Detroit condemned the attacks on U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya that resulted in the death of a U.S. ambassador and three staffers.

“There is no justification for such wanton violence that led to the deaths of innocent Americans in Libya,” said Dawud Walid, head of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The attacks on the embassies may have been prompted by an anti-Islam film produced by an Israeli filmmaker based in California who says he financed the movie with 100 Jewish donors, according to the Associated Press. The filmmaker told the Associated Press that “Islam is a cancer, period.”

The movie negatively depicts Islam’s prophet, Mohammed; Muslims believe that any artistic depiction of Mohammed is wrong.

Regardless, Muslims should not react violently when Mohammed is attacked, Walid said. They should “return insults with righteousness, not with criminality,” said Walid, who oftenlectures about Islam across Michigan.

Islam’s holy book, the Quran, says that killing one innocent person is “like killing all of humankind,” Walid added.

Imad Hamad, regional director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, also condemned the violence.

“Any act of violence towards a civilian or diplomat should not be tolerated, condoned or justified under any circumstance,” said Hamad.

The attacks were “alarming because it’s a reflection of the resentment of a certain groups that continue to target us as Americans,” he said. “It should be taken seriously by the administration.”

Regarding the anti-Islam film, Hamad said it’s part of a pattern of anti-Islam rhetoric from extremists.

“This is not sparking constructive dialogue and debate that enhances co-existence and mutual respect,” Hamad said. “People are free to debate, but do it in an ethical, professional, constructive, objective fashion.”

Hamad also cautioned that the facts of what exactly happened in Libya is not yet fully clear. The attacks may have been done by people looking to promote division, he said.

“We’re dealing with a very chaotic situation in Libya,” Hamad said. “There are a wide range of possibilities” as to what may have caused the attack.

The Jewish Community Council of Metro Detroit said they’re working on a statement for later this afternoon.

AUDIO: Eid-Fitr Khutbah

Today’s ‘Eid khutbah was delivered at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Michigan.

The khutbah touched on the importance of giving charity and being concerned of the plight of children in Michigan given that approximately 25% children in the state live in poverty.  The khutbah also touched on action need to challenged MI State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) anti-Islam bill – MI House Bill No. 4769.

Click here to listen.