Posted on | September 18, 2012
It’s an event that the Greater Los Angeles chapter of CAIR puts together every year to link reporters with Muslim sources, offer information on Islam and discuss issues in the news.
Of course, Islam has been in the news a lot lately, as Muslims in more than 20 countries have protested an anti-Muslim video produced in Southern California. Steven Klein, a consultant for the film and an anti-Muslim activist for years, lives in Hemet.
CAIR has repeatedly condemned the violent reaction to the video.
But Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the local CAIR chapter and a Corona resident, and Mohammed Faqih, imam of the Islamic Institute of Orange County, said American Muslims could do more.
Faqih said Muslims in the United States can act as “a bridge between east and west,” so Americans better understand Muslims and Muslims around the world better understand American culture and laws.
Ayloush said one reason for the violent reaction to the video was a lack of understanding of the First Amendment.
“We have not explained what the First Amendment means,” he said.
In much of the world, insulting or denigrating a religion is illegal. Many Muslims in other countries wonder why the U.S. government doesn’t ban the video.
Even Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi asked why the U.S. government didn’t punish the filmmakers.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week explained free-speech protections by stating, “We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”
Ayloush said that in the past few days, he has been explaining the First Amendment to Muslims abroad.
He said Muslims from the Middle East have told him that the United States has a double standard. Surely the U.S. government punishes people who criticize Israel, deny the Holocaust occurred or insult Jesus, they say.
But Ayloush explains to them that Americans are allowed to criticize Israel and that – no matter how repugnant the beliefs are – people are allowed to deny the Holocaust existed or to insult Jesus (who is a prophet for Muslims).
“People are shocked,” Ayloush said. “They didn’t know that.”
Ayloush also explains that the same First Amendment that protects the hateful video allows Muslims and others to worship freely.
“That helps,” he said. “They understand.”