Where's the reaction from the US religious community?


Egyptian Coptic Christians in Brooklyn.


Spencer Platt

As the world’s eyes squint at the flaring anti-US riots in the Middle East and beyond, there’s been hardly a blink of attention paid to the careful reactions of US religious communities.

Many have come out cautiously to condemn the attacks on US diplomatic posts, and some have publicly reviled the anti-Islam video that ostensibly set off the protests in Egypt and Libya. By Friday, the demonstrations had spread to countries from Iraq to India and Sudan (see map).

Here’s a look at what some of the United States’ religious groups have put out on the airwaves.

US Muslims

This is an excerpt from a statement by the Islamic Society of North America:

“While we defend the right to free speech, even repugnant speech, these kinds of messages on the internet are so clearly crafted to provoke, to offend, to evoke outrage. The denigration of religion, the mocking of religious leaders, the intentional framing of religious texts and tenets in this manner must be repudiated by all religious leaders."

Muslims in the US face immense pressure as the riots in the Middle East rage on in the name of their religion. The Islamic Society's argument for freedom of expression — "even repugnant speech" — went further than US government officials have allowed in their public statements about these incidents, writes Aaron Lerner, columnist and director of Independent Media Review & Analysis.

US Copts

The high pressure on American Muslims to react could perhaps be matched by that on a smaller community, US Christian Coptics. The man who purportedly created the “Innocence of Muslims” video denigrating Islam is believed to be a Christian Coptic.

Here are excerpts from a statement by the Coptic Orthodox Church:

“The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California & Hawaii strongly rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the Diaspora in the latest production of an inflammatory movie about the prophet of Islam.”

“Holistically blaming the Copts for the production of this movie is equivalent to holistically blaming Muslims for the actions of a few fanatics. Even though Christians often face persecution, injustice and calls for open attacks over the airwaves, we reject violence in all its forms.”

“We call on everyone from all religions to respect the freedom of individuals to choose their faith.”

US Jews

Before the spotlight shone on the Copts, media initially reported the filmmaker was an Israeli American backed by Jewish donors. Media have backed away from that version, but their reporting incensed Jews already sensitive about stoking tensions with Muslims.

The American Jewish Committee slammed “credible news sources” for failing to getting the facts straight:

"Initial reports identified the filmmaker as an Israeli-American who had received funding from 100 Jewish donors. This narrative was swallowed by credible news sources — newspapers, TV, wire services — hook, line and sinker, and repeated again and again in print and on screen.

"Later, after a few responsible journalists and bloggers did some basic fact-checking ... The individual behind the incendiary, offensive video did not appear to be Jewish. …

"Media, beginning with major US outlets, owe their readers and viewers an apology."

At a news conference Wednesday, Reform Rabbi David Sapperstein condemned the attacks in Egypt and Libya, and added that the video “was clearly crafted to provoke, to offend and to evoke outrage.”


The Conference of Catholic Bishops said:

"Yesterday’s events in Libya and Egypt point to what is at stake. We need to be respectful of other religious traditions at the same time that we unequivocally proclaim that violence in the name of religion is wrong."

"This gathering … highlights the need to defend vigorously religious freedom throughout the world. Americans are shocked when they read headlines of attacks on innocent people of faith in far off places, but too often the images of pain fade and with it the need for concerted action.

Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the World Evangelical Alliance, said:

"We completely denounce the practice of insulting and slandering adherents of other religions or their founders. Such inflammatory statements invariably arouse suspicion and confusion.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters in those countries with Muslim majority populations in condemning both the video and the violence that has followed its publication."

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA released this statement condemning the attacks and an affront to religions of the world:

"The attack has been appropriately condemned by both the US and Libya governments. Member communions of the National Council of Churches USA denounce this mindless violence as a travesty and mindless rejection of the historic precepts of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, which are based on God’s love and a peaceful regard for all God’s people."

"Our hearts and prayers go out for the families and loved ones of Mr. Stevens and the other victims of the attack. We are sadly aware that this attack took place on the 11th anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. We reiterate a statement we made we made then and ask all people to abide by its call: We assert the vision of community, tolerance, compassion, justice, and the sacredness of human life, which lies at the heart of all of our religious traditions.”