Local Muslim leaders Wednesday condemned the slaying of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others, while Rep. Dana Rohrabacher joined Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in criticizing President Barack Obama and the way State Department officials handled the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi.
"We strongly condemn the disgraceful killings of the American ambassador (Christopher Stevens) and his staff in Libya," Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said.
Ayloush joined other Muslim leaders at a news conference in Anaheim in denouncing the slayings of Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and two others.
"We condemn it in the strongest terms possible," Ayloush said. "There is absolutely no justification whatsoever to engage in such behavior."
Ayloush also condemned the online movie suspected of sparking the outrage and demonstrations that turned violent in Cairo and Libya Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"It is certainly not a random act," Ayloush said of the movie, which he said was deeply offensive to Muslims. "The timing is certainly suspect, releasing it on the anniversary of 9/11."
The movie "lacks any intellectual basis," Ayloush said.
"It only includes vulgar and offensive scenes to incite and provoke such behavior from those who lack rationality in dealing with hate messages," Ayloush said. "The extremists who produced the movie threw bait and the extremist Muslims took the bait."
The movie and the reaction to it show "a conflict (between) people who believe religion unites us versus those who use and abuse religion to promote their narrow agendas of hate and extremism," Ayloush said.
Meanwhile, Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, echoed Romney's criticism that Obama has appeased extremists and denounced a statement posted on Twitter before the attacks in Cairo that called for religious tolerance and criticized
"Today's White House response to the violent attacks in Libya and Egypt was totally unacceptable, as was the disgraceful statement issued by the embassy in Cairo," Rohrabacher said.
"Ill-advisedly included in the response to the killing of an American diplomat was an expression of understanding of the Muslim outrage over what they considered to be denigration of Islam.
"This was not the place, nor the appropriate context, for the White House to demonstrate sensitivity to Muslims around the world. Even mentioning that in any way is a projection of weakness. Placating radical intolerance will not deter further attacks on our diplomats or facilities overseas."
Rohrabacher said the State Department should “issue an immediate apology to the American people and fire those officials responsible for the initial statement."
In an interview with CBS, Obama shot back at Romney's criticism.
"Gov. Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later, and as president, one of the things I've learned is you can't do that," Obama said. "It's important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts and that you've thought through the ramifications before you make them."
Ayloush also slammed Rohrabacher's and Romney's criticism of the president.
"What a disgraceful and shameful attempt, a cheap attempt, by certain politicians to exploit this tragedy to score a few political points against the president, who, so far, has shown tremendous leadership in containing this mayhem, which was neither started by our country nor the good people of Libya or Egypt," Ayloush said.
"At this point, we're all American. We have to stop acting as Democrats and Republicans when there is such a tragedy or a risk of a wider conflict."
Ayloush said he was "disappointed" in Romney's comments as well.
"I was very disappointed with Romney's statement. This is not the time to play politics," Ayloush said. "Four innocent people lost their loves."
Ayloush said Muslims around the world have reacted with outrage at the killings, and he noted Stevens was popular among Libyans because of his role in last year's rebellion.
"I'm watching Arabic news, I'm on Facebook, reading the Tweets, and people in the Muslim world are as outraged as we are," Ayloush said.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove, who serves on the House Armed
Services Committee, said the news of the attacks was "heart breaking."
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith and two other Americans in Libya this morning," Sanchez said. "These violent attacks on our American diplomats are heartbreaking and unacceptable, and I extend my deepest condolences to the families of these diplomats, who have loyally served our nation and have represented America abroad with excellence."
The attacks "reverse the progress Libya has made toward a more open
society," Sanchez said.
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Orange, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, said he was "saddened and angered" by the attacks.
"U.S. diplomats are working around the world to protect and promote U.S. interests," Royce said. "In the case of Ambassador Stevens, he played a ritical role in helping Libyans rid themselves of a tyrant."
Royce added that "nothing can ever justify such violence. Those responsible for these deaths, and those who have incited this violence, must pay a price."
Santa Clarita Republican Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said, "This morning we were reminded once more of what a dangerous world we live in, and the risk many Americans take to serve our country abroad. My thoughts and prayers -- together with those of this committee -- are with the families of those we've lost in Libya."
Gov. Jerry Brown said, "All Californians mourn the loss of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the other three Americans killed in Libya on Sept. 11.
"As a graduate of Piedmont High School and UC Berkeley, Ambassador Stevens represented the very best that California and the United States have to offer.
"His dedicated service to our country and our world will never be forgotten.”
--City News Service