Local faith leaders denounce anti-Muslim film, violence

Film sparks violence in Middle East, N. Africa


Around a dozen leaders of San Diego's religious community Thursday condemned an anti-Muslim film and resulting violence throughout North Africa and the Middle East, in which three area residents were among those killed.

"The Innocence of Muslims," shot in Southern California, mocks the founder of Islam as a violent womanizer and child abuser, according to those who have seen it, who have described it as extremely amateurish. The film went virtually unnoticed until a segment was posted on YouTube, sparking a violent reaction.

"As spiritual leaders from different faith traditions, we stand together and condemn this wanton denigration of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and the Qur'an," the religious leaders said in a joint statement.

Among them were Imam Taha Hassene of the Islamic Center of San Diego, Bishop James Mathes of the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego and Rabbi Laurie Coskey of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

The statement calls the film "misguided, divisive and damaging to peace."

"At the same time, we must likewise join spiritual leaders around the planet and condemn the vicious reaction to this film," the statement says. "We can understand the anger that faithful Muslims feel, but we cannot justify the violent response resulting in loss of life and destruction of property."

At a news conference, Mathes urged prayer for those involved in the creation of the film, those offended by it, the perpetrators of violence and their victims.

Hassene said he was grateful that religious leaders have come together in San Diego. Those who conducted the attacks on U.S. diplomatic posts were trying to send a message to stop efforts to bring together faith communities in the Middle East and the West, he said.

"We as faith leaders are here to show everyone that we are united and our mission is to build a harmonious society, not only in San Diego but in the entire world," Hassene said.

Coskey called for mediation and reconstruction of the values that the faithful "hold so very dear."

Rioting in Benghazi, Libya, last week resulted in the deaths of Sean Smith, 34, who grew up in San Diego and was described as an information technology specialist for the federal government, and ex-U.S. Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, 42, of Encinitas, Tyrone Woods, 41, of Imperial Beach.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens also died in the assault, which came on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

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