BELFAST, Maine — Marina Delune said late Monday afternoon that she grieved last week as U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and others were killed in Libya when the Muslim world erupted into angry protests sparked by an anti-Islamic movie.
But when the Belfast city councilor saw a photo of a small Libyan boy holding aloft a sign that read “Sorry people of America this not the behavior of our [Islam and Prophet],” her heart broke open, she said. Delune was inspired to create an event in Belfast that aimed to be a peaceful response to the ongoing violence around the globe.
“I wanted to send him a message back,” she said at Post Office Square in Belfast, just before the gathering was due to begin. “I have a grandiose fantasy that this will be filmed. That it will be put up all over the Internet. We’re hoping that this little boy will get our message.”
About 60 people gathered in the square, holding homemade posters and the photo from Libya, singing songs of peace and listening as Jewish and Muslim religious leaders shared messages of tolerance and respect.
Eaman Attia of the Islamic Center of Maine in Orono told the crowd that her religion is one of peace and she and other Muslims came to Belfast to profess their sadness about the violence.
“We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to our fellow American Christopher Stevens’ family,” she said. “And to condemn the violence.”
She said that the film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” was a pointless attack on her religion and sparked senseless violence by a small group of people.
“We object to and condemn the actions of these people,” Attia said. “They do not represent Muslims. … A small group of people in America have used this movie to instigate the turmoil we have seen in the past few days. Our religion, Islam, has taught us we need to respect all religions.”
Attia grew emotional as she explained that she believes the movie threatens to polarize people with its anti-Islamic agenda.
“At a time when we should be working on building bridges and mending fences, this movie is a step in the wrong direction,” she said. “We need to work together on a foundation of mutual trust and mutual respect for our faiths.”
Chris Marshall of Montville wore his Jewish prayer shawl as he also spoke under a waving American flag.
“We’re all children of Abraham,” he said. “We’ve got to start treating each other like relatives.”
Monday marked Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
“It’s incumbent upon all of us to do better,” Marshall said.
After the event was over, some of the Muslim children who had been holding signs they had made crowded together to talk about Islam, and what the Belfast gathering means to them.
“I think it’s good, because people get to learn more about Islam and they realize it’s something good,” said Ayah Rahman, 10, of Bangor.
“We’re all humans together,” chimed in Adam El Kadi, 9, who also attends services at the Islamic Center of Maine. “Jew, Muslim, Christian, Catholic.”
Labeeha Rahman, 12, of Old Town said that she and others were trying to send a message.
“I think we’re trying to portray that not all Muslims are bad,” she said. “We want to show that we care about people. We’re Americans. We’re not aliens.”