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Muslim, Christian Leaders Plan Meeting To Condemn Violence

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LOS ANGELES (CBS)  — A group of Muslim and Coptic Christian leaders plan to meet to denounce the violence that the film “Innocence of Muslims” has sparked around the world.

To the people who would say “It’s only a movie”– and it’s clearly not — the leaders will join forces in downtown Los Angeles Monday.

Dr. Maher Mathout, an Egyptian-born physician who speaks for the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Southern California, and Bishop Serapion, the spiritual leader of the Coptic Orthodox church in Los Angeles, are expected to be the main speakers at the news conference set for 11 a.m. on City Hall’s South Lawn.

“Our religions teach us to respond to hate speech with good speech and good work,” Hathout said in condemning overseas violence directed at Americans.

“The behavior exhibited does not speak for the majority of Muslims and are the actions of a small group,” Mathout said. “This irrational behavior cannot be allowed to spread, and this movie cannot be allowed to dictate our actions.”

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other consulate staffers (including two former Navy Seals with ties to Southern California) died Sept. 11 in a fire when the American embassy in Libya was stormed by a mob.

There is some debate over whether the attack was related to Sept. 11, or triggered by the anti-Islamic film “The Innocence of Muslims.”

Violent demonstrations broke out in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where tensions among Muslims and Orthodox Christians were already high since the 2011 revolution that removed President Hosni Mubarak, who later died in prison.

Nakoula Nakoula, the apparent filmmaker, remains in hiding Sunday. He is reportedly a naturalized U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent and a Coptic Christian. Coptic Christians are a major influence in Muslim-majority Egypt where they number around 12 million and make up 10-20 percent of the population.

 (©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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