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 firstname.lastname@example.org