Now that we have had time to reflect on the tragic misunderstandings and violence that erupted after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad, it has become clear that this chain of events could have been resolved nonviolently at the local level. Danish Muslims protested peacefully in Copenhagen, petitioned for an apology, and were rebuffed. The Danish Government refused to take their concern seriously, even when foreign diplomats from Muslim countries requested a meeting with the Danish prime minister.
This incident underscores how important it is for local interfaith groups to work together to help resolve these misunderstandings before they become international incidents.
The South Coast Interfaith Council, with a constituency of 250 congregations in the Long Beach-Peninsula-South Bay area of Los Angeles County, as well as in West Orange County, is such a local group committed to fostering interfaith understanding and respect as a path to peaceful coexistence in a diverse society and a global community. We strongly defend the right of free speech while we are nonetheless concerned when such freedom is irresponsibly abused to incite hatred, fear, bigotry or disrespect for any of the world's religions, scriptures, places of worship, races or cultures.
At the same time, we repudiate violence as a response to such insult. Violence, even that borne of frustration or oppression, impedes accomplishing these goals.
We are encouraged, however, that we represent a large, and growing, constituency which includes Muslims, Jews, Christians, Unitarians, Baha’is, Buddhists, Hindus and other people of faith who agree with these values, pray daily for peace, and witness to tolerance in their communities.
Rev. Ginny Wagener, Executive Director, South Coast Interfaith Council
Rabbi Howard Laibson, Temple Israel, President
John Ishvaradas Abdallah, South Bay Sufi, President-Elect