Conversations: On Religious Violence and Learning

Rev. Can. Charles Gibbs, Bay School Trustee, spoke at yesterday’s Morning Meeting about 9/11, the recent embassy attacks and making the choice to learn about religions other than our own. Hear his speech or read his letter for United Religions Initiative below.

Listen to the MP3 Here

A Message from URI’s Executive Director

12 September 2012

Dear Friends,

I join the ranks of the heartsick at the news of the tragic deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues. By all accounts, Ambassador Stevens was a dedicated public servant who again and again put himself at risk to help serve the hopes and aspirations of peace loving, freedom seeking people in the countries where he served.

I join all those who grieve their loss, especially their families and loved ones.

And I join the ranks of those outraged that religion has again been distorted into a means of vengeance. Regardless of the name of the religion, this is wrong. It is wrong.

Since, in this tragic moment, we will inevitably hear the insistent refrain — Where are the Muslims voices condemning this action? — I enclose below statements by three different U.S. Muslim organizations.

As we condemn criminal violence perpetrated in the name of religion, I believe we must also stand in solidarity with those who stand up against the crimes committed in the name of their faith. We must redouble our efforts to weave a fabric of community based on the highest ideals of our faiths and a profound commitment to mutual respect for those of any tradition who are committed to laboring together in the field of peace, justice and healing.



The Rev. Canon Charles P. Gibbs


I. We at the Cordoba Initiative mourn the loss of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and other members of the US Libyan diplomatic mission in this act of senseless killing inLibya, and in no uncertain words, condemn this heinous crime.

We have a message to these people who claim to have done this in the name of Islam:

First, the Quran is very explicit: no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden (6:164); and; whoever kills an innocent person is as if he has killed all of humankind (5:32).  Second, Islam is a religion of law, not of lawlessness. No person has the right to be plaintiff, judge and executioner.  It is therefore the obligation of the Libyan government to track down the criminals and bring them to justice.

We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the others, who sacrificed their lives to help the Libyan people in their struggle for independence and democracy.  For these public servants, who committed their lives and careers to the promotion of peace and dialogue between two countries, to die at the hands of extremists is a harsh contradiction to their lives’ work. That their death occurred on the anniversary of September 11, 2001, is a sharp reminder that our work to eliminate extremism is far from over.

We must amplify the voices of moderation and strengthen the moderates who stand for justice and peaceful coexistence.

Please join us in sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families on this painful day. We stand in solidarity with members of the United States Department of State serving throughout the world, and support them in their continued resolve to combat the spread of extremism.


II. Islamic Networks Group (ING) and its Affiliates across the nation condemn 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. The parties responsible for these events in both nations claimed to be reacting to an online film considered offensive to Islam.

As with previous instances of the 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 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. On a daily basis, Muhammad was exposed to demeaning abuse 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.”

It is also an Islamic principle that one does not blame or punish another for the crimes of another. The employees at the embassies were in no way responsible for the actions of either Terry Jones or the producers of the film. Such extreme responses, in fact, can only help Islamophobic interests. Such actions and reactions are but a useless cycle of hate that benefit no one and as occurred yesterday, can be potentially dangerous and even deadly.

ING and its Affiliates are committed to upholding the right to freedom of expression and unconditionally condemn 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 speech we find deeply offensive is more speech — speech that tells the true story of Islam — not censorship or violence. Acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam are a greater offense against Islam than the content of any film or speech.

ING President Maha Elgenaidi urges both fellow Muslims and fellow Americans to “Work together for a more peaceful world and take this opportunity to redouble efforts towards peace and harmony through increased outreach, dialogue, and understanding.”


III. The American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) unequivocally denounces the cowardly killing of U.S. Ambassador toLibya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three Embassy workers, by those using the pretext of an obscure YouTube film aimed at depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light.  Regardless of motive, rationalization or evidence, this action must be condemned.

Violent extremism seeks to inflict harm on innocent people and is an absolute corruption of Islamic doctrine.  We stand together with the victims’ families and the Libyan people in condemning all extremist groups.  We want to remind the American and Libyan public that the extremist groups do not represent the teachings of Islam. The extremists use religion as a veneer to further their political agenda, which includes killing innocent Muslims who do not espouse their message of intolerance.

We extend our deepest sympathies to the families of those who were lost and urge people not to use these senseless killings to blame Muslims and the Libyan people during this tragedy.

We call all Muslims to unite in condemning all extremists who terrorize the innocent.  Please join us in praying for J. Christopher Stevens and the Embassy workers and honoring the service of  Chris Stevens.

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