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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Who Really Killed Ambassador Stevens and His Staff?

In the name of Jesus or Muhammad, what faith so consumes people that they kill innocents for offending words and images? When personal resentment causes believers of any religion to react with malignant, lethal opposition to opposing views, no matter how reprehensible they judge the content, those zealots are nothing more than unholy murderers. No human, Christian or Muslim, should use religious belief as a grounds for taking human life.

With the latest news that U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other American staff members were killed in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, it is clear that people will take up arms over something as ignorant and purposely indelicate as a hate-provoking film. Why does any religious individual or group engage in provoking hostility? I hate acting in anger under the name of religion.

Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters were angry over a 14-minute trailer of a two-hour film, Innocence of Muslims, that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The protesters fired gunshots and rocket propelled grenades at the consulate. Outnumbered by the crowd, Libyan security forces did little to stop them, al-Sharef said. Stevens had helped nurture Libyan democracy.

The crowd overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said. "I heard nearly 10 explosions and all kinds of weapons. It was a terrifying day," said one witness who refused to give his name because he feared retribution.

For several days, Egyptian media have been reporting on the video, playing some excerpts from it and blaming Egyptian-born Christian Morris Sadek for it, with ultraconservative clerics going on air to denounce it. Ironically, Sadek did not produce the film.

Hours before the Benghazi attack, hundreds of mainly ultraconservative Islamist protesters in Egypt marched to the U.S. Embassy in downtown Cairo, gathering outside its walls and chanting against the movie and the U.S. Most of the embassy staff had left the compound earlier because of warnings of the upcoming demonstration.

The Storm of Discontent

Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any fashion, much less in an insulting way. The 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad first in a Danish newspaper and later in other European countries triggered riots in many Muslim countries.

The trailer of Innocence of Muslims was posted on the website YouTube in an original English version and another dubbed into Egyptian Arabic. It depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.

The website's guidelines call for removing videos that include a threat of violence, but not those that only express opinions. YouTube's practice is not to comment on specific videos.

Sam Bacile, a 56-year-old California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew said he produced, directed and wrote the film. Bacile said he had not anticipated such a furious reaction. (Has he been living in a cave for the last twenty years?)

Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, Bacile, who went into hiding Tuesday, remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that he intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion. (“Anti-Muslim Filmmaker in Hiding After Consulate Deaths,” Newsmax, Associated Press, September 12 2012)

Bacile said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world.

"Islam is a cancer, period," he repeatedly said in a solemn, accented tone.

Though Bacile was apologetic about the American who was killed in Benghazi, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence.

"I feel the security system (at the embassies) is no good," said Bacile. "America should do something to change it." So, Bacile is ducking all responsibility for the uprising.

Bacile said the film was produced in English and he doesn't know who dubbed it in Arabic. The full film has been shown once, to a mostly empty theater in Hollywood earlier this year, he said.

Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-born Christian in the U.S. known for his anti-Islam views, told The Associated Press that he was promoting the video on his website and on certain TV stations, which he did not identify.

My Take

The most despicable Muslim religious extremists, not all believers of Islam, caused the deaths of Ambassador Stephens and his staff members. Yet, the production and distribution of the film Innocence of Muslims is the work of the worst hate mongers – those who spread evil in the name of religion. Sam Bacile and his cohorts must share blame for this bloody reaction and the death of innocents.

Even in a democracy where freedom of expression reigns, people must understand limitations and be responsible for the far-reaching consequences of their words and actions.

It is easy for non-Muslim Americans who have become conditioned to daily assaults by a liberal media that holds very loose reins on offensive content to take the stand that any religion must be open to condemnation. And, is this hateful expression all in the name of freedom? I think not. I personally believe Bacile expected and desired his work to cause untold furor as it was meant to provoke Muslims. I watched the trailer and think it is an irresponsible piece of rubbish.

You know, Pope Benedict XVI strongly condemned the Mohammed cartoon caricatures of 2005 saying, "In the international context we are living at present, the Catholic Church continues convinced that, to foster peace and understanding between peoples and men, it is necessary and urgent that religions and their symbols be respected." (“Pope Says Peace Implies Respect for Religious Symbols: And Condemns Violence as a Response to Offenses,” Zenit, February 20 2006)

The Pope also added that this implies that "believers [of various religions] should not be the object of provocations that wound their lives and religious sentiments." The Pope noted that "for believers, as for all people of good will, the only path that can lead to peace and fraternity is respect for the convictions and religious practices of others."

Pope Benedict XVI has called for Christians "to open their arms and hearts" to Muslim immigrants and "to dialogue" with them on religious issues. The Pope told participants that the Catholic Church is "increasingly aware" that "inter-religious dialogue is a part of its commitment to the service of humanity in the modern world."

What Purpose In Hatred?

As he has aged, Evangelist Billy Graham has developed more and more belief in humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. Yet, when asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have."

In Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved. Graham today preaches this:
And that's what God is doing today, He's calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they've been called by God. The may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven.”
I absolutely want the killers of Ambassador Stephens and his staff members brought to justice. I abhor them for their inhuman reactions to an ignorant YouTube video. Make no mistake, I view violent Muslim extremists and terrorists as evil threats. However, it should never be our intention to incite hatred or adverse reaction. As the group Release International states: “The teachings of Jesus Christ are clear and unambiguous, requiring that every individual seeking to practise the Christian faith is called to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
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