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Libya attack: 'This is a day to pray,' local Islamic group pleads

September 12, 2012 |  1:48 pm

A prominent American Islamic group on Wednesday condemned the “horrific attacks” on the U.S. consulate in Libya and appealed to people of all faiths to be calm and “to speak with one voice.”

"We should not let extremists control the discourse," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the local chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations, during a news conference in Anaheim.

Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. government employees were killed Tuesday in an attack by a group of armed men on the consulate in Benghazi. The violence appears to have been ignited by a California-based filmmaker's movie that belittles Islam’s prophet, Muhammad.

PHOTOS: U.S. ambassador killed in Libya

The American Islamic Council, known as CAIR, had issued a warning prior to the film’s release, calling for calm. The film, CAIR said, depicted Muhammad in a “very sexual, very demeaning way” which ultimately incited a “mob to act.”

The people behind the film "didn't even intend to have a debate," Ayloush said Wednesday. "We cannot let the production of an offensive movie overshadow our mission. This is the time for sane people to say those acts are isolated."

Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, said the consulate killings "are not at all acceptable to Muslims under any circumstance. Ambassadors have immunity in Islam, according to Islamic law. We emphasize very much respect for ambassadors and diplomats."

He added that "indecent films" like the one produced by the California filmmaker, who is reportedly now in hiding, "create misunderstanding ... It's very shameful" that someone who lives locally amid diverse communities "can create something like this."

Mohammed Faqih, religious director of the Islamic Institute of Orange County, an Anaheim mosque, said he remained in shock.

"To me, this is a day to pray, to mourn, to reflect,” he said. “I pray for stability. I also demand answers. Who is benefiting from this chaos and mayhem."

Facebook, he noted, lit up with theories pinpointing the persons responsible, but he and the others said they do to worry about threats to their community.

"We repel evil with good," Ayloush said. Muslims have recently emerged from the observance of the holy  month of Ramadan, filled locally with interfaith programs.

"Democracy in the Muslim world is increasing. The U.S. supports it .... We live in a world where we should promote harmony," Ayloush said.


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-- Anh Do