This post was originally published by the Interfaith Youth Core on September 13.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens’s work was a personal inspiration to me. He was among the most dedicated few of public servants, never shying away from challenging assignments. He loved the Middle East and its people, and showed great courage helping the Libyans rebuild a democratic society in the wake of the uprisings.
Ambassador Stevens showed the most refreshing optimism in his dealings with the Middle East. He was fluent in Arabic and French, and took great pleasure in communicating his ideas and plans to partner with the Libyans. His message demonstrated such exuberance and hopefulness for the future of the Libyan state, and for U.S.-Libya relations. All of this makes his death that much harder to swallow.
On Tuesday evening demonstrations were organized in Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya to protest the broadcast of a film of questionable origins. The film [Depicts] the Prophet Muhammad as a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug.
It appears that an organized group of Islamic militants affiliated with al Qaeda took advantage of the chaos, orchestrating a carefully planned attack in the midst of the protests. Though militants were not successful in entering the U.S. embassy in Cairo, they managed to enter the consulate in Benghazi, Libya with the help of heavy artillery. By the end of the attack, Ambassador Stevens, three other American diplomats, and 10 Libyan security officers were dead.
Heinous as they are, I refuse to let the actions of these terrorists cloud or taint my vision of what I know to be the true Islamic faith. When I think of Islam, I think of this quotation from the Sayings of the Prophet Mohammed: “He who sleeps on a full stomach whilst his neighbor goes hungry is not one of us.”
I think of Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam that requires Muslims to apportion a percentage of their wealth to the poor. I am inspired when I think of the values of patience and mercy, prevalent in Islam and other faiths, and needed now more than ever before.
I am an unabashed idealist. What keeps me going every day is the idea that change is possible, and that we can build a better world together. My aim is a career that allows me to increase friendship and understanding between the people of the Islamic world and the West, and to mitigate the effects of global religious violence.
Though I understand the mixed history of U.S. foreign policy toward the Muslim world, I firmly believe that governments, including the U.S. government, can and should serve as a force for good in the world. I believe that diplomacy, at its heart, is about advocating for your nation’s interests, but also about working out compromises we can all live with, without the use of armed forces. In this age of global challenges, more often than not, what is best for the U.S. is best for the world. We are all in the same boat when it comes to issues such as climate change and violent extremism.
I don’t believe that armed conflicts between the U.S. and the Arab world are inevitable. It is more important than ever before for diplomats and civil society leaders on both sides to demonstrate firmly that we can work together to make this world a better place.
Photo by DieselDemon, via Flickr Creative Commons.