To stop the wave of anti-American violence breaking over the Islamic world, Sacramento Muslim leaders Friday called on all 6 million American Muslims to use social media to tell all the world what's good about the United States.
During an impassioned sermon at SALAM Islamic Center near American River College, Imam Muhammad Abdul Azeez asked his 500 worshippers, "Why don't we become ambassadors of peace and understanding about America? There is a lot of good here."
American Muslims have chosen to raise their children in the United States.
Now it's time to show the world the positive aspects of American society, including civil liberties and acts of charity and love, Azeez said. "Just a few clicks on Facebook and Twitter is all it will take."
Azeez and others expressed disgust and heartache over the film "Innocence of Muslims," which mocks and insults the Prophet Muhammad, that has incited the anti-U.S. attacks and protests in 23 nations.
They also expressed profound sadness and outrage at the murders of Grass Valley-born J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans, along with 10 Libyans defending the embassy.
"The heinous murder of an honest man, an activist at heart, will impact our lives for months and years to come," Azeez said. "The actions of a few Muslims put all our lives in jeopardy."
He and other Muslim leaders said those behind the violence don't have a clue about how American democracy works, or what the Quran teaches about how to deal with those who insult their beliefs.
Much of the Islamic world with its long history of military dictatorships doesn't understand "it's OK for people to disagree, that our president has little power to stop a film made in the private sector," Azeez said. "As much as we are offended by a film that attacks things that are sacred to us, we must support their right to make the film freedom of the speech, the right of everyone to say what they want to say is what this country's about that's what we signed up for."
When people mock, curse or belittle one's beliefs, "what Allah expects you to do in the short term is absolutely nothing, be patient, persevere and let it go," Azeez said. "Leave until they start talking about something else and calm down, then reach out to people and change one heart at a time."
The Prophet Muhammad was subjected to many attacks and mockery in his lifetime and used eloquence and wisdom to win over his critics, Azeez said. "Unfortunately that guidance is not being observed if people only followed in the footsteps of the man they are trying to defend, the world would be a better place."
At a news conference following the sermon, Basim Elkarra, Sacramento Valley executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called Stevens a "local hero" and said the video "is being used to divide our community," noting that a man claiming to be connected to the movie tried to tie financing for the film to American Jews, who had nothing to do with it.
The fires of anti-Americanism are being fanned by false defenders of Islam trying to gain legitimacy, Elkarra said, adding that local leaders hope to broadcast Azeez's message throughout the Middle East to explain why the right to free speech worldwide is so critical.