The representative called the video â€œamateurish and stupid,â€ said protesters â€œcould have written letters.â€
By Michael Rose
Demonstrator hold a placard during a rally to condemn the killers of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and the attack on the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi September 12, 2012.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) on Wednesday said he mourns for the Americans killed during riots at American diplomatic missions in the Middle East, and he condemned the video that sparked the protests.
Speaking on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday morning, Ellison said he is â€œdeeply disturbed,â€ termed the attacks a â€œterrible, terrible tragedyâ€ and said protesters â€œcould have written letters and could have registered their disapproval in a number of ways, but they resorted to murder.â€
Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed Tuesday during attacks on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Violence also erupted at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, in response to a short American-made video called â€œInnocence of Muslimsâ€ that mocks Prophet Muhammad (s).
Ellison released the following statement:
I am deeply disturbed by the attacks on our diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt. Four Americans have now been killed, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. My heart goes out to their families. They were brave public servants working tirelessly to improve relations with Egypt, Libya, and the rest of the world. This is a tragic loss.
The amateurish and stupid video that sparked these riots was deeply offensive not only to Muslims but also to anyone who respects the faith of others. It was designed to provoke, and sadly, the provocateurs successfully induced some people to take the bait. Instead of ignoring or peacefully condemning the film, they resorted to violence and mayhem.
Yes, the filmâ€™s creators hatefully attacked what so many people hold most dear: their relationship with the Divine. But responding with violence is never justified. And those who think they are doing so in the name of Islam are wrong and ill informed. The abuse of free speech rights, no matter how offensive, does not give license for senseless acts of violence.
People need to understand that the United States government had no role in creating this film. In fact, the government has condemned it and the American people have rejected it; it violates the American value of religious tolerance. The vast majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths live in peace and harmony in the United States, and reject the hateful expressions in the film. No one should confuse the tiny group who made this disrespectful and deliberately provocative film with the American people or the U.S. government. The United States Constitution protects religious freedom, but it also prohibits the government from silencing misguided individuals who abuse their free speech rights.
Hateful provocateurs will always try to stir the pot, but itâ€™s up to us to remain calm and not let it boil over. Now innocent public servants who dedicated their lives to building bridges between people are dead. What we need is more understanding and tolerance, not conflict and bloodshed.
Ellisonâ€™s Republican opponent, Chris Fields, released a response which mourned the â€œsavage murderâ€ but which denied any American provocation for the brutal attacks, claiming that the murders were caused by â€œ[i]ntolerance of American values;â€ Fields claimed Ellisonâ€™s statement was â€œshocking.â€
Fieldâ€™s statement was shockingly bigoted and incendiary.