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Rabbi Saperstein "Saddened and Appalled" by Tragic Violence in Libya, Egypt

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 12, 2012 -- In response to the recent violence in Egypt and Libya, and the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other colleagues, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

"I am appalled and so deeply saddened this morning to learn of the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other colleagues at the U.S.consulate in Benghazi. On behalf of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America, the largest segment of North American Jewry, I offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of those killed. This act of violence, and the violent protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, must be condemned unequivocally. While the actual killings of 4 diplomats seem to have come from a group looking for an opportunity to target the U.S. on 9/11, the loss of life in this manner is an affront to the values of humanity and tolerance that are at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I also stand here today to condemn the video that apparently spurred protests in Libya and Egypt. While we defend the right to engage in free speech, even repugnant speech, such anti-Muslim Internet postings are clearly crafted to provoke, to offend, and to evoke outrage. The denigration of religion, the mocking of religious figures and the intentional framing of religious texts and tenets in this manner must likewise be repudiated by all religious leaders.

The video and the views it espouses do not reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans and people of faith. It is, purely and simply, a creation of those on the fringes of American society whether they are Christians or Jews or Muslims. Two years ago, it was Evangelical leaders who persuaded Rev. Terry Jones from burning the Koran. And it was the leaders of all the major religions in America that expressed universal condemnation of such religious hatred - in that case as now, anti-Muslim hatred. I appeal to the religious leaders and to the media in the Muslim world to denounce violence in the name of their religion to make clear to the citizens of their nation and their co-religionists the wall-to-wall condemnation of America's religious leaders of religious hate speech, and thereby help to bring an end to the violence before further tragedy occurs.

We must all oppose efforts to divide people - in the United States, in Egypt, Libya and around the world - along religious lines. Small violent groups of extremists, no matter their religious identity, cannot be allowed to define their religions or their nations. Instead, let us lift up those who appeal to the best in humanity, those who seek to build bridges over longstanding divides, and those who speak the language of peace and tolerance."

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