I am an American Muslim, and like every other American Muslim I know, I am horrified and disgusted by the recent attacks on U.S. Embassies in Libya and Egypt. I stand with President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and numerous American Muslim organizations in unconditionally condemning these attacks. And I extend my utmost sympathy to the victims and their families.
The violence was incited by an anti-Islam amateur film that gained prominence when Terry Jones included it as part of his September 11th message. But, however inflammatory a film or a book or other speech might be, Islam never allows for the taking of a life in response. From the beginning of Islam, killing civilians (noncombatants) and arbitrarily destroying property has always been absolutely prohibited and severely condemned. Even in the earliest times. The Muslims who attacked our embassies and caused deaths have committed heinous crimes under Islam.
Every Muslim should recall how Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, was reviled and persecuted in his hometown of Mecca for over a decade during the early years of his preaching. He never responded with violence.
In fact, the historical records describe a famous incident that nearly all Muslim schoolchildren learn. Every day, the Prophet Muhammad walked along a certain street. As he passed beneath a certain window, the woman inside would throw garbage out the window, which landed with unwavering aim onto his head and shoulders. This scenario occurred on a daily basis. He never paused in his journey and he never reprimanded her. One day, as he passed beneath her window, nothing happened; he was struck not by garbage, but by the absence of it. This time he did break his journey to go inquire of a neighbor as to the woman's well-being. Upon learning that she was ill and in bed, he offered to see to her needs.
This is the model that Islam gives us, and this is the model that Muslims must follow. No insult is worth the cost of a life. There is nothing in Islam that requires the repression of freedom of speech. There is absolutely nothing that allows for violence in the face of an insult. Violence begets violence.
Morever, Muslims need to remember that all Americans do not harbor the ridiculous, vitriolic views in the anti-Islam video that provoked this violence, just as non-Muslims should remember that the Muslims undertaking these horrible attacks represent no more than a fraction of a fraction of Muslims worldwide.
Bigotry begets bigotry, as well as violence. We have seen this in our own country, with the recent shooting of the Sikh temple and the arson fire that burned the mosque in Joplin, MO down to the ground. If we are to stop this senseless cycle of violence, we must set aside violence and bigotry, and remember that in our new smaller, global world, minor actions can have massive repercussions.
Update: New evidence is now indicating that the attacks might not have been due to a reaction against the film, but to a previously planned terrorist attack, possibly to avenge the death of al-Qaeda's second-in-command killed a few months ago. Either way, they were reprehensible and violative of the most basic rules of Islam.
Sumbul Ali-Karamali is the author of The Muslim Next Door: the Qur'an, the Media, and that Veil Thing and Growing Up Muslim: Understanding the Beliefs and Practices of Islam