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This week's attacks on U.S. diplomats in Libya and Egypt apparently spurred by a film that insults Islam were unjustified, but they highlight the level of mistrust some Muslims feel toward the West, according to an Egyptian democracy advocate visiting Utah.
The mayhem that led to the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens at a consulate in Libya erupted after an American film that ridicules the prophet Muhammad went viral on the Internet.
"There's no question people are offended, but that is no justification to commit violence and kill people. This is a barbaric act. It does no justice to themselves or their religion," Mohamed ElBaradei said Wednesday in a KUER-FM radio interview in advance of his address scheduled Thursday at the University of Utah.
The attacks illustrate a larger problem, he said, that can be addressed only by building mutual trust, reacting rationally to slights and containing extremism.
"Using violence and counter-violence takes us back to the Middle Ages," said ElBaradei, a U.S.-trained legal scholar who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work with the United Nations to stem the spread of nuclear weaponry.
He delivers the keynote address at the Tanner Humanities Center's World Leaders Forum at Kingsbury Hall on Thursday. The 3:30 p.m. lecture, titled "The Challenge of Security in Our Time," is free and the public is welcome.
Utah's Muslim leaders also condemned this week's violence.
"Islam condemns violence without just cause, and there was no just cause for this," said Tarek Nosseir, a past president of the Islamic Society of Greater Salt Lake. "Both the hooligans in Egypt and those producing the movie were wrong. But violence is condemned in Islam, except to protect yourself and your family. People on all sides need to bring about peace."
An appropriate response to the anti-Islam film should have been dialogue and education, according to Imam Muhammed Mehtar of the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City.
"Islam allows for the freedom of speech, but people should be sensitive in what they say about other religions," he said. "Even if people say offensive things about Islam, there are better ways to deal with it. Our religious take is we should not respond to one wrong with another wrong."
Saying the killers must "be brought to justice," Mehtar also criticized the filmmakers.
"Nobody puts out false information on another religion unless there is something really, really wrong with their thinking," he said. "Whether it's against Judaism, Islam, Mormonism or whatever, [a project like the film] comes from pain. They should have dealt with that and ask why they were producing such a work."
Tuesday's attacks killed four Americans in Libya and damaged the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. They are only the latest in a string of violent responses in the Middle East to irreverent acts by Westerners. Early this year, a video of U.S. soldiers urinating on dead Taliban fighters triggered outrage far beyond the borders of Afghanistan, as did reports that soldiers mistakenly burned copies of the Quran.
"It's a deju vu all over again," ElBaradei said of Tuesday's attacks, invoking the famous sentiment of baseball's Yogi Berra.
"The only way we can live together is to build bridges of dialogue," ElBaradei told KUER-FM host Doug Fabrizio. "Brute force does not resolve conflict, it exacerbates conflict."
Peggy Fletcher Stack contributed to this story.
The 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner will talk about the connection between global security and social inequality at the World Leaders Lecture Forum, sponsored by the University of Utah's Tanner Humanities Center.
When • 3:30 p.m. Thursday
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City
Tickets • The event is free, but tickets must be obtained through the Kingsbury Hall box office (801-581-7100 or online at http://kingsburyhall.utah.edu/). Parking will be available at Rice-Eccles Stadium.