Maghreb reacts to Benghazi attack
By Asmaa Elourfi for Magharebia in Benghazi – 14/09/12
The head of Libya's national assembly, Mohammed Magarief, paid respects to slain US ambassador Christopher Stevens during a visit to the American consulate in Benghazi on Friday (September 14th).
Magarief placed a bouquet of flowers in front of the consulate where Stevens died on Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired on the compound with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze, AFP reported.
Visibly moved, the president of the General National Congress said he regretted the loss of "a friend of Libyans who rendered laudable services to Libya".
Surrounded by heavy security, Magarief was accompanied by Libya's military chief of staff Yussef al-Mangush.
Libyan mufti Sheikh Al Sadeq Al Gheryani condemned the attack and appealed to people to avoid the provocation of Muslims' feelings through films, pictures or articles denigrating the Prophet Mohammed or any other religious figures.
"We condemn any armed attack by any group operating outside state legitimacy," Al Gheryani said in a written statement. "We remind those people that Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was the one who criminalised the killing of ambassadors and people who were party to treaties and covenants."
The statement describes the Benghazi attack as "condemnable, a serious indicator of security chaos and a challenge to state authority by the force of arms that is rejected and condemned by all Libyans who love their country, all wise people and those who carry the name of Islam".
"This is an irresponsible act that neither defends Islam nor serves its purposes; rather, it severely harms the country's high interests by provoking other nations, prompting them to classify it on the list of terrorism in order to intervene in its affairs and violate its sovereignty and sanctities," Al Gheryani wrote. "It also seriously harms Islam."
Libyans on Friday continued their demonstrations of protest of the attacks, and to mourn the loss of Ambassador Stevens, who was viewed by many as a friend of Libya. Such demonstrations continued online, on numerous Facebook pages such as one rallying readers under the theme "Terrorism does not represent me".
One visitor to the page, Sasa Anies, wrote: "Do not kill and burn in the name of Islam. Question for those who burnt the consulate and killed the ambassador: where was the hospitality and positivity in the name of Islam and the Prophet in what you did? If the Prophet were here among us, would he bless your actions? You should have gone instead to the internet to introduce our prophets."
Magharebia spoke to a number of Benghazi residents to learn their reactions to the tragedy.
"Were they truly members of Ansar al-Sharia?" asked Fatma Majed. "Is the storming of consulate and killing of ambassador a solution to defend God's Prophet? Did our Prophet ask us to resort to terrorism? Is this the way to defend our Prophet? You're a terrorist group led by the cohorts of the buried [Kadhafi], as this is not a way for understanding and dialogue."
"I offer my condolences and sorrow," said Hakem El Monafy. "I strongly condemn this heinous crime against unarmed innocent nationals of the US, a friendly country that supported us and condemned the acts of the tyrant at the time of war against his brigades. Those friends who are working in the US consulate are innocent and human beings who have nothing to do with any denigration of our religious beliefs."
These sentiments were echoed throughout the Maghreb.
Mauritanian scholar Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Director of Attajdid Wal Tarsheed Center and Deputy Secretary-General of the Union of Muslim Scholars, reacted to the attack on Wednesday. "Assaulting innocent people and killing diplomats and ambassadors is a breach of religion before it is of politics," he said.
At the same time, he called "on wise people around the world to carefully reflect on the consequences and tragic effects of provoking the feelings of more than 1 billion people by a group that doesn’t want to see peace on earth or harmony among people".
Mohammed Salem Ould Sheikh, editor of douroub.info, said, "We as Muslims should defend the Prophet but using the Prophet's manners that condemn violence and respond to ideas with ideas and arguments with arguments."
He added: "I'm personally against the killing of the US ambassador or anyone else for their ideas or opinions, especially as that ambassador had nothing to do with the film. This sort of behaviour just increases the film's publicity."
In Algeria the streets were calm. There were no calls for demonstrations from political parties or other associations, but security was reportedly stepped up at the US Embassy in Algiers.
"The attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi is an unspeakable event," Algerian foreign affairs spokesman Amar Belani told reporters on Wednesday. "It goes against the laws of all religions, and violates the principle of the sanctity of diplomatic premises."
"Algeria equally deplores the irresponsibility of those who made the film 'Innocence of Muslims'," he added, "which is offensive to Islam and the Prophet, peace be upon him."
Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci sent a message of sympathy to his American counterpart, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The Moroccan government "presented its sincere condolences to the American government and people".
Mustapha El Khalfi, the communications minister and government spokesman, reaffirmed the government's commitment to the values of peace, tolerance and cooperation. "People have a guaranteed right to peaceful demonstration, but not to call for or support violence," he told the government council on Thursday.
"Muslims across the world have the right to express their views on the [film], but not by resorting to violence," Rabat resident Chourouk Senhaji told Magharebia. "Only extremists could resort to this act of terrorism."
"If we use force we shall lose everything," said Mustapha Benhamza, chairman of the local council of Ulemas in Oujda. "We must not fall into that trap."
Siham Ali in Rabat, Fidet Mansour in Algiers and Jemal Oumar in Nouakchott contributed to this report.
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