Intentional essential in face of stark differences

Published 10:39 pm Saturday, September 22, 2012

All Americans of conscience are concerned about a series of violent events in the Middle East recently that claimed American lives and included attacks on the U.S. embassy in Egypt and Yemen and the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Killed were Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three American civilian employees. Lesser violence happened in Indonesia.

The Religion News Service was one of the credible sources reporting that at least some of the attacks stemmed from the Internet distribution of an at-times obscene film about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, Islam’s central figure.

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The film, called sarcastically “The Innocence of Muslims” was translated into Arabic by a Coptic Christian from Egypt living near Washington, Morris Sadek, who describes himself as a human rights attorney.

However, some fellow Copts say he is a fringe figure in their ancient faith and is well known for his “Islamophobic invectives” which his detractors say do not help the cause of full religious freedom in Egypt.

Such religious intolerance is alien to most Americans, thriving as we do in a free and tolerant religious culture guaranteed without regard to personal preference by the Constitution.

That intolerance is practiced in the Middle East is no surprise and sadly remains the rule.

Because the film came from U.S. sources the fury was aimed at official American symbols — consular structures and personnel.

American policy under a long stream of presidents in both parties has in fact condemned salacious commentary and demeaning depictions of all religions.

Details about the film’s makers remain sketchy, but The Associated Press reported that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Coptic Christian who lives in Southern California, managed logistics for the production company. Nakoula also told the AP that he is concerned about Muslims’ treatment of Coptic Christians, which has been undeniably bad and destructive. …

No religion and few if any of the Christian traditions, can claim exemption from acts of violence and bloodshed, whether recent or more deeply in history.

Intentional good will and dialogue are possible and essential, even in the face of stark differences.