Ellison condemns Middle East riots and the movie behind them

WASHINGTON — Minnesota U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison condemned Wednesday both the killing of American diplomats in Libya and the film that sparked protests in the region.

Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, said he was “deeply disturbed” by the riots in Libya and Egypt and called the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others a “tragic loss.

As for the film that sparked the protests, he called it “amateurish and stupid” and not indicative of American sentiments toward Islam.

But, “responding with violence is never justified,” he said. “And those who think they are doing so in the name of Islam are wrong and ill informed. The abuse of free speech rights, no matter how offensive, does not give license for senseless acts of violence.”

California real estate developer Sam Bacile produced the two-hour film, called “Innocence of Muslims,” the trailer for which is dubbed in Arabic and posted on YouTube. The Associated Press reports:

Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that the 56-year-old intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.

Protesters angered over Bacile’s film opened fire on and burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing an American diplomat on Tuesday. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.

Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.

“Islam is a cancer, period,” he repeatedly said in a solemn, accented tone.

“Hateful provocateurs will always try to stir the pot, but it’s up to us to remain calm and not let it boil over,” Ellison said. “Now innocent public servants who dedicated their lives to building bridges between people are dead. What we need is more understanding and tolerance, not conflict and bloodshed.”

Devin Henry can be reached at dhenry@minnpost.com

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/12/2012 - 11:48 am.

    Food for thought.

    Most Muslims living in secular, Western countries are peaceful, and with some exceptions, seem to meld with their non-Islamic neighbors fairly well.

    But in every country where there is a solid Muslim majority (Turkey withstanding for obvious reasons), outrages and bloodshed occur with frightening frequency at the slightest provocation; even among the various Muslim sects themselves.

    I’d love to hear Ellison’s response to the suggestion that left to itself, Islam seems guaranteed to drift towards radicalism.

  2. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/12/2012 - 11:52 am.

    Hateful provocateurs

    What does it say when someone makes what he calls a “provocative political statement,” and then goes into hiding when his provocation boils over? That they are not only a troublemaker, but a coward?

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/12/2012 - 03:12 pm.

      Cowardice in the eye of the beholder.

      Given the bloody history of retaliation radical Muslims have racked up, I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it cowardice.

      Are you of the opinion that people should be willing to give their lives to speak freely?

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