DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES ( — Southland Muslims and Coptic Christians are continuing to speak out against anti-American violence in the Middle East.

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High-ranking members of both communities held a news conference  Monday, in both English and Arabic, condemning the fiery protests that were most recently felt in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“We strongly condemn any and all violent reaction and the loss of innocent lives,” said Bishop Serapion, representing the L.A. Diocese of the Coptic Orthodox Church, on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall.

“We cannot allow the actions of a few deceived, fanatical individuals to define our communities,” Serapion said.

Many of those responsible have said they are defending their religion after a low-budget movie, produced in Los Angeles, took aim at the prophet Muhammad and denigrated Islam.

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“There should have been no bloodshed. As a matter of fact, there should have been no reaction to such an insignificant production,” said Dr. Maher Hathout, an internationally-recognized leader in the Muslim community.

The religious leaders also decried the message of the film, which they called a “desecration” of the Islamic religion.

The film caused a series of violent clashes in the Middle East that have resulted in several deaths, including the death of the American ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff.

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