Vicious cycles of hatred must stop

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The murders coincided with the promotion of an anti-Islamic film produced in the United States. Initial reports indicated that the violence was a response to the video. Evolving information now suggests otherwise. It appears that the Libyan murders were planned beforehand, and that the film was used as a cover for the planned assault.
 
In either case, religious difference was exploited to propagate hate. Either militants encouraged conflict through the manipulation of religious sentiment or an angry mob reacted to hate speech with deadly violence.
 
In contrast to the attacks in Libya, reports have emerged about a protest in Cairo where demonstrators tore apart an U.S. flag and replaced it with a flag favored by conservatives and extremists. In Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman advocated for revenge over the video through a statement. There are no reports of personal violence or deaths.
 
While the organization I represent, Tanenbaum, does not condone the property violence in Cairo – breaking into the U.S. embassy and tearing apart and replacing the U.S. flag – we do support the Egyptians who engaged in peaceful protest. The freedom of speech that allows the anti-Islamic video to be disseminated is precisely the same freedom that should be employed by those who oppose religious prejudice in all its forms.
 
But with freedom of speech comes responsibility.  Neither the people who created and promoted the video nor the Taliban spokesman recognized that responsibility. Rather, they spewed their hate – and thereby contributed to a global cycle of violence that is undeniable.

This tragedy is yet another example of how hate begets hate. And how hate builds a more violent and dangerous world for each of us.

To be clear, hate mongering and murder are not moral equivalents. But let’s also be clear, hate contributes to such violence. And this gives extremists the fuel they need to grow their numbers.
 
We can combat this cycle of destruction by loudly condemning the cycles of hate, violence, and extremism.


Dubensky is an acclaimed activist, lawyer and speaker and the CEO of the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, whose mission is to combat religious prejudice.

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