Bay Area Civil Rights and Religious Groups Condemn Violence, Call for Dialogue

February 9, 2006


On February 9, 2006 reported, " A group of 10 religious and civil rights leaders held a news conference Wednesday at Fremont Congregational Church to encourage interfaith dialogue and to condemn the violent protests following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. But the Bay Area Muslim leaders, who included members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Muslim Voice, spent much of the news conference defending their faith as a religion of peace and explaining their objections to the cartoons to members of the media.

'I think there is an "us versus them" mentality,' said Safaa Ibrahim, executive director of the Bay Area's Council on American-Islamic Relations. 'There is a frustration that we have to constantly defend ourselves. I'd rather not be on the defensive. I'd rather just educate people about our faith.'

The news conference highlights how the cartoons have ignited passions on all sides and triggered widespread debate over issues of multiculturalism and freedom of expression... Leaders from the Interfaith Freedom Foundation, the World Alliance for Humanity, Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice and the Indo American Community Federation spoke at the event.

Chris Schriner, a pastor of Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation who participated in the news conference, said he was disturbed that many of the Muslim leaders had to state repeatedly that they condemned violent acts.

'I've got much more understanding of how stressful it is and how frustrating it is to be a Muslim in public dialogue because of the question-and-answer portion,' Schriner said. 'The questions seemed to indicate that some of listeners simply did not believe that these people were being honest and forthright because they kept asking whether they condemn the violence even though they had explicitly said so.'"