In one word, it was disgusting. That's how Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, described the amateurish film that was blamed for instigating violent protests in Libya and Egypt, as well as others in Sudan, Indonesia, and Pakistan, last week.
American Muslims, like Syed, were quick to decry The Innocence of Muslims and the reaction towards the video, that went viral after being posted on Youtube. Similarly, the Egyptian Coptic Christian community distanced itself from filmmaker Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, who was reportedly influenced by Zakaria Botros Henein--a controversial cleric who owns a home in Huntington Beach and a TV network in Westminster.
This evening, members of both communities will meet at Garden Grove's Islamic Society of Orange County in an invite-only meeting that "will seek to address the root causes of the anti-Islam film...and the subsequent unfortunate response to it," writes Munira Syeda, communications manager for the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in an e-mail.
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Eight Coptic clergy members from the Coptic Diocese of LA including Bishop Serapion, as well as Shura Council chairman (and head of the Islamic Society) Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, and several other leaders of the Muslim community will be present at the meeting.
The purpose of the meeting is "to build mutual respect for each others' faith, and asking ourselves how do we transform that into action, and sustain those relations," said Syed, who says he can understand the outrage of protesters in the region.
"When people poke me in the middle of the eye, and ask me not to cry, that's just impossible." But the reaction is inexcusable, he continues. "It's not justified for me to poke a needle back in their eye. Violence has no place, period."