Nothing Wrong with the Cairo Embassy Statement

There is nothing wrong with this statement, released by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, around 6:00am EST, Tuesday, September 11, 2012:

“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

It is not an apology.  It lifts up the value of respect for religious beliefs and it rejects anyone who abuses the right of free speech.  I’ve highlighted those words in case you missed them.  Where is the apology?

I can’t believe that Mitt Romney and his campaign staff actually read this before going on their “it’s an apology” press tour. 

So I found the statement.  I read it.  I watched the 14-minute YouTube video that many are talking about, and that this statement was in part responding to, trying to be a calm voice in a volatile atmosphere.  {Really, the video is terrible.  Don’t bother.  Looks like it was made for about $42 and is profoundly disrespectful.  I’d reject that idiot too.} 

And as CBS News points out,

“The embassy statement, which was in response to anger over production of an amateurish anti-Islam film, came before any violence occurred. (It was an apparent effort to head off possible violence.)”

What concerns me about this nonsensical episode is how many people will believe Mitt Romney, without reading the statement for themselves, simply because it fits into the coded narrative that they want to be true about President Obama.  Doesn’t share your values.  Not really American. 

Others have written about the timing of the Romney response, as well as the politics of a candidate intervening in an international issue.

I’m more interested in  pointing out that there is nothing wrong with the statement put out by the embassy, especially given the context in which it was released.  Aren’t religious tolerance and free speech American values?  That is what the statement lifts up and defends over against those who would abuse them.

There is nothing wrong with the statement.

There is something wrong with the Romney campaign.

{Update:  On that last note, read David Henson’s piece over at his Edges of Faith blog on Patheos, “Bigotry is Not An American Value, Gov. Romney”}

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About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and also teaches Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • The Tofu

    There’s nothing wrong with in a total vacuum, I suppose. But there’s definitely something wrong with it in that the correct response to thuggery is not “Hey, try not to offend the thugs.” When someone threatens speech with violence, you condemn the threats of violence. You don’t tell people to watch what they say, even if they should.

  • L

    Tofu, if I’m ever in a volatile, potentially-violent situation (really you should do a little research on hostage negotiation, etc), I hope you’re nowhere nearby.


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