Embassies Under Attack: An Open Letter to Muslims

11/02/2012 05:34 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2013

Muslim brothers and sisters, I urge you to unite and condemn the recent violent attacks on American embassies and consulates in the Middle East and to seek appropriate punishment for those extremists that murdered the American ambassador in Libya and three other of his colleagues.

I understand your outrage over The Innocence of Muslims amateur video on YouTube which desecrates your prophet and denigrates your people and religion. As a Mexican, I, too have been the subject of defamation, prejudice and slander by Americans. The American media and Hollywood have played a crucial role in creating a prevailing stereotype of Mexicans as lazy, corrupt, impoverished and worthless beings. Moreover, right-wing politicians have made it their mission to spark fear amongst the American public, allowing them to implement inhumane measures against Mexican migrants and Hispanics in this country. Mexico and Latin America have been historically exploited by the United States through the orchestration of CIA coups' d'état, the imposition of U.S.-backed dictators, and the indiscriminate extraction of our resources. The U.S. went as far as to steal more than half of our territory in the 1848 U.S.-Mexican War. I understand your pain Muslim brothers and sisters; I'm with you on this one.

I also believe we must never forget, yet we do have to forgive. In the end we are all sons of Abraham and the ability to forgive is a fundamental pillar of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Doesn't the Quran verse 42:40 state "the reward of the evil is the evil thereof, but whosoever forgives and makes amends, his reward is upon Allah?" I urge you to forgive these offenses, my Muslim brothers and sisters; do not forget, just forgive. Forgiveness is what makes you a Muslim; it is what sets you apart from the radicals, the racists, the "ignorants," the violent extremists and those ultra-conservative warmonger politicians in Washington.

Moreover, you must come to terms and accept that we live in a globalized world of modern nation-states where tolerance and freedom of expression have become the norm. Yes, this video goes against the laws of some of your respective countries in the Middle East, yet the video wasn't filmed within your boundaries, it was distributed through a medium that is not constrained by a specific rule of law. The World Wide Web answers to no government, church, synagogue or mosque. Furthermore, you must understand that the United States also has fundamental laws, one of them being the First Amendment. This particular piece of legislation prevents Americans from taking action when they witness their venerated flag being burned and desecrated across the Middle East following the aftermath of a terrorist attack that claims the lives of thousands of American citizens. The First Amendment even prevents the government from taking action against an individual who chooses to desecrate the flag on U.S. soil. Finally, the First Amendment is why the corresponding authorities are unable to punish the makers of this video. U.S. justice is structured in such a way that it can persecute extremist actions (breaking violently into an embassy) but never extremist thoughts or points of view (burning the American flag or making a video that portrays George Washington as a pedophile).

I know that the wide majority of Muslims believe in non-violence and reject senseless retaliation. This is why I would like to emphasize a distinction: 9/11 was not orchestrated by the Muslim world but by a group of extremists, and thus in many respects, this terrorist attack is as much of an isolated case as this new video that desecrates your prophet. Consequently, I must also recognize that these recent attacks on American diplomats are not representative of Muslims. Likewise, the YouTube video does not represent American views; it portrays the views of a small group of radicals within the United States. The enemy is not Islam or the U.S., the enemy is extremism on both sides of the coin. Extremists -- which constitute a minority -- are responsible for the strained relationship between the West and the Middle East, and in the heat of the moment we forget and blur these distinctions. Consequently we proceed to blame entire nations, religions, and civilizations. Therefore, I urge you Muslim and American brothers and sisters, to unite against extremism.

Finally, I would like to express my admiration for the Muslim youth. Your Arab Spring has inspired movements in the U.S. such as Occupy Wall Street and student protest groups in my homeland such as Yo Soy 132. Keep following this path; do not get caught up in the overblown controversy sparked by a video that is incoherent, poorly made and is as insulting to the art of cinema as it is to Islam. Keep your eye on the prize. Choose your battles. This one is definitely not worth it. Do not let extremists taunt you so that you can fall into their trap. You are better than that and thus should avoid turning your inspiring Arab Spring into an Arab Nightmare.

I believe that time is finally on your side, Muslim brothers and sisters. You have the momentum, and you can restore the past glory of the Arab world -- a civilization of innovating artists, scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, medics and intellectuals. You gave us algebra, great advancements in medicine and astronomy; you established the bases of infinite practices that much later the West built upon. There was a time when no one payed attention to Washington; in fact the United States of America was not even an idea, and all eyes were fixated on the beauty and power of Damascus. And thus Muslim brothers and sisters, I take the liberty to urge you to pursue a bright future and avoid elevating the importance of a minority of extremists who aren't even worthy of going to film school. Finally, If you choose to protest against this video, do it peacefully. Condemn those who invoke violence and do not fall into the trap of extremists. Seek justice for four American citizens who lost their lives to violence in Libya. Most importantly, keep your eye on the prize.