No Harm for Harm

The Islamic Society of Santa Barbara, as all Muslim organizations across the nation, condemns in the strongest possible terms the extremist attacks on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday, September 11th, one of which killed U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens along with three of his staff members. We grieve along with the rest of our nation over these tragic deaths. Protests and violence that began in Egypt and Libya have now spread to Yemen, Sudan, and beyond.

The parties responsible for these events claimed to be reacting to an online film considered offensive to Islam.

As with previous instances, of Danish cartoons or Qur’an burning, it is important to emphasize that it is a greater defamation of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an to react with violence and the murder of innocent people – one of the greatest sins in Islam – than any claimed insult from an Islamophobic film. Those who responded in such a manner should instead study the Prophet Muhammad’s example in the face of harm. Muhammad was exposed to demeaning abuse on a daily basis for 13 years during the early years of his mission. His response was not to return insult for insult or hurt for hurt, but to pray for his persecutors and overlook their insults. In a famous Islamic tradition, he stated: “It is not allowed to cause harm to others or to return harm for harm.”

The Islamic Society of Santa Barbara is committed to upholding the right to freedom of expression and unconditionally condemns any use of violence as a means to protest offensive or hateful speech. In the United States, this fundamental, inalienable right is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The answer to anything we find deeply offensive is speech – speech that tells the true story of Islam – not censorship or violence. We believe that the only proper response to intentional provocations such as this film is to redouble efforts to promote mutual understanding between faiths and to marginalize extremists of all stripes.

Afaf Turjoman is writing on behalf of the Islamic Society of Santa Barbara.

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