After violent protests worldwide, American Muslims take peaceful approach

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New York (Dawn/ANN) - Following the release of a low-quality, poorly made video, which was disrespected the Holy Prophet, Muslims, mostly in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia went on a protesting spree. Most of the protests were violent. In Libya, a protest which led to an attack that allegedly killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and then later after some more Muslim countries expressed their outrage, back in Pakistan; tyres were burned, people were beaten, and a few killed.

None of those countries, protestors, or officials had a single thing to do with that video. But as is usual in the Muslim world, Muslims and then some pay the price. There was no outrage and no protests against the violent protesting that took place.

In the US, however, Muslims addressed the situation differently. First, the Council on Islamic-American Relations condemned the attacks on the US embassy in Libya and at the death of Stevens.

Then, at an event hosted by Muslim Ummah of North America (MUNA), New York-based political and Muslim leaders from major Islamic organisations gathered to address the issue of civic engagement among the Muslim communities across the country. In addition, the notorious Youtube video, posters in New York that compare jihad to savagery and Islamophobia were also debated upon.

"The recent situations - I cannot say anything except that I agree with President Obama, the movie that was produced by a convicted felon - is not just an insult to Muslims but to Americans as well. To demean and spread hate is not freedom of speech - that is something else," said Dr Sayeed ur Rahman Chowdhury, the national president of MUNA, who did not limit his speech to just those who were anti-Islam.

"Extremism and terrorism cannot be in Islam. Extremists and terrorists have their own religion - it is not Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. We have to find a better way to respond. My point here is to find a better way. We must be visionary not just reactionary."

Dr Sayeed was not alone. Last week, a series of unexpected protests and proactive responses have taken place across the United States, including a video from Pakistan.

The reaction video, "Mercy in 5" first showed up on Facebook by production house Muhammadi.me. The video is about five minutes long and just spoke about the Holy Prophet and the deeper meaning of his actions.

"My video "Mercy in 5" was in direct response to the insulting film "Innocence of Muslims". I partially saw the trailer of that movie before Youtube was banned in Pakistan and found it to be utterly repulsive. At the same time I realised that the film was so badly made that it would have no credibility in the eyes of neutral audiences. And it is these neutral audiences who would now be seeking to know the real Prophet Muhammad," said Muhammad Ibrahim, 44, the founder of Muhammadi media company. Ibrahim is originally from Karachi but currently resides Islamabad.

"I started this organisation in 2007 with a focus on spreading the love for Prophet Muhammad [May Peace and Blessings be Upon Him] and discovering his role, contribution and presence in our lives."

"We used Facebook to launch our video since we could not post our video on Youtube because of the ban. But Youtube was important to us because that's where the insulting film was being shown and our response had to be there! So we asked people who saw it on Facebook to upload it on their Youtube accounts and many of them did!!"

While Ibrahim was busy making the video, different Muslim organisations in the Europe handed out gift bags with the Quran and booklets explaining Islam and the Holy Prophet (pbuh).

All the while, an organisation in New York won the argument to post advertisements that said the following, "In Any War Against the Civilized Man and the Savage, Support the Civilized Man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad."

The posters caused an uproar in New York. The day they were posted - protestors went into the subway and some were arrested.

Not everyone that protested was arrested, the International Action Centre, an organisation working towards fighting bigotry all across the United States set up a protest during the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) meeting, the division that manages New York's underground subway system.

Although the MTA did fight the placements of the advertisements in federal court but lost in court to Pamela Geller, who runs campaign against "Islamization" in the US, said that it against the freedom of speech to stop the advertisements.

Most recently, the infamous filmmaker and convicted felon "Sam Basile" or "Nakoula Basseley Nakoula" who made the Youtube film and has more than dozen aliases, was arrested in Los Angeles, California for violating is probation for a 2010 fraud conviction. Nakoula, 55, is an Eyptian born Coptic Christian, who has been known for his bank fraud schemes in the US. Nakoula has been released on a $10,000 bail and has gone into hiding since, according to different reports.

A few days after the filmmaker's arrest, back in New York at the MUNA event, Brooklyn Congresswoman, Yvette Clark made a strong point to hundreds of Muslims in the audience, " When we are there and we are ready to blow the whistle and no one is there - it diminishes the impact. Together, we will triumph. "

The author is a former Dawn.com staff member, now based in New York.

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