Southern California Muslims and their interfaith friends on Friday night brought candles, flags and a renewed commitment to tolerance during a vigil in Orange to honor the victims the U.S. embassy attack in Libya that left four U.S. diplomats dead including the U.S. Ambassador.
"We're here to tell the world Islam is not what happened in Benghazi," said Dima Khedraki, Syrian-American.
Early reports suggested that a group of Libyans were provoked to attack the embassy by the anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims,” made in Southern California. The 15-minute video is being blamed for sparking unrest elsewhere in the Middle East and in North Africa.
Tom Garland, of Orange, is not Muslim but says he's grateful social media alerted him to an opportunity to show solidarity.
"I think it’s a shame that so many people in so many places around the world, including Libya, have used it as an excuse to incite violence. From what I understand about Islam, that is not Islam," Garland said.
Earlier in the day, Muslim leaders announced a historic meeting while emphasizing their condemnation of the international attacks.
"Dear brothers and sisters, we are coming today, of course, was an ache in our hearts," said an imam at the Islamic Center of Southern California in South Los Angeles.
Prayer services at the mosque started at about 1 p.m. and included strong language aimed at violent protesters.
"We tell them in very plain language, 'Shut up, you don't talk for me. You don't talk for Muslims,'" the imam said. "This is not acceptable."
The attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya occurred on Wednesday during U.S. diplomatic missions. The attack fatally wounded 14 people, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, two former Navy SEALS who were providing security for Stevens, and foreign service information management officer Sean Smith.
A video produced in Southern California has drawn the ire of international protesters who claim the piece is insulting to their religion as it depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a child molester and a thug. In Islam, all images of Mohammed are prohibited, let alone negative ones.
"We affirm that we have freedom of speech in this country and that we have a responsibility that comes with the freedom to respond to bad speech with good speech," said Jihad Turk with the Islamic Center of Southern California.
Still, U.S. officials are also probing the possibility that it was a planned attack, timed to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"Let our law enforcement, let our security people take care of that," said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "But what we’re telling people is, go ahead and spread the message of love that our religion is telling you to spread."
SoCal Muslims believe the creator of the film is a Coptic Christian and to ease tension, the head of the Coptic Christian Church of California and the senior adviser of the Islamic Center of Southern California are set to meet Monday morning in an unprecedented gathering.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies, meanwhile, continued to patrol a Cerritos cul de sac where the suspected filmmaker behind the video is purported to live "to ensure the safety of the public and this community," said Steve Whitmore, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman, adding that no threats against the man had been made.
"Everything is calm and peaceful right now," Whitmore said.