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Area Muslims call for peace, honor ambassador slain in Libya attack

September 14, 2012 | 11:17 pm

With heavy hearts and lighted candles, about 60 Southern California Muslims gathered in silence at a street corner in Orange County to mourn the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the three other American diplomats killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi.

The silent vigil in Tustin was organized by a young Syrian American, who, along with her friends, wanted to send a message to the perpetrators who stormed the compound in Libya during a protest over a controversial film that insulted Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

"As a Muslim American, me and a couple of friends decided to show that what happened in Libya does not represent us as Muslims," said organizer Lilah Khoja, 21. "Even more important, we should stand by and honor the great Christopher Stevens, who did a lot for the Libyan people."

The Greater Los Angeles Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), along with the Libyan American Assn. of Southern California, cosponsored the vigil.

Khoja's initiative has led to other planned vigils for Stevens and the three other American diplomats throughout the nation, including in New York, Boston, Washington and Chicago.

"We are very sorry," said Ayoub Misherghi, 63, a Libyan American who drove from Upland with his wife and daughter. "We wanted to express our sorrow and solidarity with the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Libya."

Misherghi's wife, Najat Mezran, 54, said she hasn't been able to look at Stevens' photos on television. 

"When I see his pictures smiling, it shows that he was a good man, and I just cry," she said. 

Munira Syeda, communications manager of CAIR-LA, said her organization wanted to mourn Stevens' death "but also to come together and pray for calm, peace and unity at this difficult time." 

"We want to clearly and categorically condemn the killing of the diplomats and other lives lost,” Syeda said. “We cannot let extremists on all sides control the discourse or control the conversation or the sentiments of the Muslim people around the world.”

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-- Mona Shadia in Tustin

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