We continue to see the spreading of the violent protests in response to the anti-Muhammad film.
By now, this has become an occasion to give voice to anti-Western sentiments, rather than directly responding to the film itself. Many people have been looking to religious leaders to provide leadership in this time of crisis, and we are starting to hear from many of them. Here are some of what religious leaders have had to say about the anti-Muhammad film and the demonstrations following it:
The richest compilation of statements from scholars and organizations remains that by Sheila Musaji, at the American Muslim.
Imam Maghid of Islamic Society of North America:
''We should not fall into the trap of people who want to portray Muslims as violent people.”
The film was deeply offensive ''but we should not express our anger with violence and breaking things and taking innocent people's lives''.
'I'm going to tell them this does not represent America, or the Christians, or the government,'' he said. ''It's one person who is representing bigotry through a film.''
Shaykh Qaradawi, the "Imam of the Internet":
"Loyalty to Islam and our prophet, may peace be upon him, is better done through explaining to humanity how tolerant Islam is, and not through surrounding embassies," Qaradawi said. He called on Muslim clerics to use all possible means to teach the world the story of Prophet Muhammad’s life, and how he taught humanity about noble-mindedness, and how just Islam is.
The prominent European Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, offered these words: “The violence must be condemned unconditionally. To attack innocents, diplomats and to kill indiscriminately is anti-Islamic by its very nature. Muslims cannot respond to insults to their religion in this way.”
Here is the response from Libyan scholars (courtesy of Sohail Nakhooda):
Statement from Aref Nayed, the former Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emeriates: This is to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen colleagues, and to the American people and government. I had the honor of personally knowing Ambassador Stevens, and witnessed, firsthand, in Benghazi and later in Tripoli, the care and hard work that he devoted to fulfilling his duties towards his country and towards Libya and the Libyan people. He was a man of dedication and honor, and I am shocked and deeply anguished for the loss of a dear friend and supporter of the Libyan people’s struggle against tyranny. Tyranny and darkness may wear a thousand guises, including pseudo-religiosity, but must never deceive us. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Prophet of Compassion. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for criminals to kill and destroy in the name of defending Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). The criminals who committed this cowardly act must be rigorously pursued and rapidly brought to justice. May this tragic loss make us even more dedicated and determined to building our respective countries, based on the values of dialogue, understanding, and peace.
“I call on you not to attack a soul, not to destroy property, not assault embassies, and don’t violate the values you are defending. Attacking innocents and killing of diplomats and ambassadors is a violation of religion before it is a violation of protocol.”
The American Muslim leader Hamza Yusuf offered a passionate plea in defense of the Prophet as well as a reminder of the need for higher ethical response.
My own Huffington post Friday sermon calls on Muslims to practice the Prophetic virtues of forbearance, mercy, and forgiveness.
Shaykh Ali Jum'a (Gomaa), the Grand Mufti of Egypt, offered these wise words:
It goes without saying that violence of any sort, whether inspired by religious sentiment or secular interests, must be condemned unequivocally and in the strongest terms possible. This is in keeping with the best of Muslim tradition, which abhors sectarian rife, inter-ethnic conflict, and interreligious violence. This lesson is best contained in the example of the Prophet Mohammed himself, who was repeatedly subjected to the worst treatment by his enemies, only to consistently disregard these insults and instead take the path of forgiveness, mercy and compassion.
Not every response has called for measured calm.
The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, used the occasion to blame the film on the United States and Israel.
The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, made a rare public appearance to condemn the film: He said: “"O Prophet, we die for you, my soul and my blood are for you….America must understand ... the US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world.”
There are some lovely examples from religious leaders of other traditions. Here is a profound response from a Christian theologian: “Again, as a Christian and as a Theologian, I condemn the film, Innocence of Muslims. However, I also condemn hatred, violence, intolerance, retaliation, and anything that harms any person.”
Clearly, religious leaders have a crucial role in this saga. We are in urgent need of religious leaders from all traditions to simultaneously point to the moral bankrupcy of spreading hatred as well as calling for demonstrations to be done in a way that is in accordance with our highest ethical values. This is no time to remain silent.