Islamic groups promote peace, education in response to 'Innocence of Muslims,' Middle East violence

September 21, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"Innocence of Muslims" was filmed in the United States. The film, which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called "disgusting," led to deadly clashes with protestors in Pakistan and marches and demonstrations in a dozen other countries.

Nineteen people were killed in the latest wave of violence in Pakistan. One hundred and sixty were wounded. Islamic groups hope an ad campaign will combat the images of Middle East unrest.

"Education is the key to mend bridges and to establish peace, justice, and tolerance," Sabeel Ahmed, GainPeace, said.

While gathering for Friday prayers, Muslim-American leaders condemned the anti-U.S. demonstrations, as well as the film.

"We believe the anti-Islamic video is not an expression of freedom of speech. It is an expression of hate," Ahmed said.

In the past two weeks, violence has killed more than 30, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. The U.S. government is airing TV ads in the Middle East to disassociate itself from the video's California filmmaker. Protestors- many of whom grew up under authoritarian rule - remain skeptical.

"If that's how your world is constructed, you're not going to accept someone who says well, this is not official policy. Because they'll turn around and say why don't you prevent it?" Tom Mockaitis, DePaul University professor, said.

The Muslim community is also concerned with recent incidents in the Chicago area, including the arrest this week of a Hillside teenager on federal terrorism charges and incidents last month at two suburban mosques.

On Saturday, officials in Hanover Park will hold a community forum entitled "Who are my Muslim neighbors?"

"In Hanover Park, we're a diverse community. We embrace diversity. And we want to be inclusive. And we want people to know it's a safe space," Eira Corral, Hanover Park Village clerk, said.

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