Washington — The anti-Muslim video that has generated protests in several countries does not represent U.S. views of Islam, and the violence that has accompanied many of those protests is unacceptable, President Obama said.
In remarks at a town hall meeting in Miami September 20, the president said some extremists have used the natural protests that arose over the film as an excuse to carry out “inexcusable violent acts” against Westerners or Americans.
“Although we had nothing to do with the video, we find it offensive, it's not representative of America's views, how we treat each other with respect when it comes to their religious beliefs, but we will not tolerate violence,” Obama said.
Despite incidents targeting Americans, including the September 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. diplomats, the president said the United States must and will remain engaged in the Middle East.
“The one thing we can't do is withdraw from the region because the United States continues to be the one indispensable nation. And even countries where the United States is criticized, they still want our leadership and they still look to us to make sure that we're providing opportunity and peace,” he said.
There is a “larger issue” beyond the current protests, he said, which is the transition of Arab countries from dictatorship to democracy, and “we cannot replace the tyranny of a dictator with the tyranny of a mob.”
Obama said he has spoken with the presidents of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and other countries, saying, “We want to be a partner with you, we will work with you, and we stand on the side of democracy.”
But he said he also told them, “Democracy is not just an election; it's also, are you looking out for minority rights, are you respecting freedom of speech, are you treating women fairly.”