About two dozen Tulsa Muslims and their supporters did not let brief afternoon raindrops deter them from speaking out against hate speech and its potentially devastating impact.

Standing at the intersection of 101st Street and Memorial Drive, grass-roots activists and members of the Islamic Society of Tulsa peacefully demonstrated Saturday to stand up for the tradition of Prophet Muhammad, as well as to denounce the violence in the Middle East believed sparked in recent weeks by a short film denigrating the religious figure.

“Muslims are not about violence. We are not about responding with hatred,” said rally organizer Priscilla Galstaun. “Whatever has been going on in the world the last few months related in part to the film, the people over there did what they felt they had to do.

“But they don’t speak for me. If I have a problem with hate speech, I believe in resolving it with dialogue.”

Her statements were in response to protests and violence that erupted in the Muslim world after the small-budget independent film, “Innocence of Muslims,” allegedly produced by U.S. citizens, portrayed Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, homosexual and pedophile.

Mona El-Zahed is staunchly “against the violent reaction” exhibited by extremists. El-Zahed, like other Muslims, wants to inform the public that any form of offensive or insensitive speech can’t be accepted.

“Most Americans don’t get the concept that Prophet Muhammad to Muslims is dear to them like their kids and parents,” El-Zahed said. “We are trying to find some middle ground in which people can have freedom of speech and still respect the beliefs of other people. This is what we are trying to get people to understand.”

Although it could be concluded that the 14-minute trailer sparked anti-American backlash, Mohideen Khader said much of the disenchantment stems more from American Middle East policy and the deaths of Muslims in Iraq as a result of it.

“The (violent) reaction is more because of other things than what was shown in the film,” Khader said.

Galstaun, who agreed with that sentiment, said the United States could go a long way in easing tensions with the Muslim world if hundreds of innocent civilians were not caught in the droning campaigns meant to target terrorists.

“The droning that has been going on the last several years, that needs to stop,” she said. “It is the innocent civilians that are dying. The rage is building up. This is not about a film or a cartoon. It is much more.”

The ultimate goal for the community is to promote freedom of expression while ensuring that everyone is aware of the consequences.

“The idea is to show restraint,” Rasoul Eazz-Ahamid said about those producing hate speech.

Kendrick Marshall 918-581-8386

Original Print Headline: Muslims stand up for prophet