Belfast gathering offers response in wake of Libyan violence
Belfast — About 60 people gathered at Post Office Square Monday, Sept. 17, to spread a message of peace and tolerance in the wake of violence in Libya that was sparked by an amateur anti-Islamic film.
Event organizer Marina Delune said she envisioned the idea for the response after U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Delune then saw on the Internet a picture of a young Libyan boy holding a sign apologizing for the violence.
“I had this grandiose vision that I could get a film in somehow like a message in a bottle and send it out,” Delune said.
The event was especially poignant to Delune, who admitted her knowledge of Islam was limited, which she is working to change. Delune said she strives to know and understand the different religions, but Islam was not one of the religions she had tried to learn more about.
"I never knew a thing about Islam, and I never had a desire to know anything," Delune said. "I think we pick up on our cultural biases."
A lack of understanding about different religions and cultures was an important aspect of the gathering, because Delune wanted it to be an educational opportunity for those who participated.
She said she wanted people to understand why the anti-Islamic film had such an impact on Muslims, and to explain to the Muslim community why freedom of speech rights prevent the film from being taken down.
“It’s hard for Muslims to understand why the president can’t have the film taken off the Internet,” she said.
During the event, supporters displayed signs with different messages such as, “The Video Maker Wants Violence Make Him Fail!” and “Tolerance=Peace,” as Delune read a prepared statement she had crafted with help from members of the Islamic Center of Maine.
“The anti-Islam film ‘The Innocence of Muslims,’ has been very destructive. It does not reflect the views of the vast majority of Americans. We condemn its destructive message of hate and disrespect for the Prophet Mohammed, and thereby for all Muslims,” Delune said.
After Delune finished speaking, Marwa Elkelani and Eaman Attia of the Islamic Center of Maine offered their condolences and encouraged those gathered to continue to work together to build trust and respect for different faiths.
Montville resident Chris Marshall concluded the event by offering a few words on behalf of the Jewish community, as Monday marked the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.