As the bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles and an official with the Muslim Public Affairs Council were holding a joint news conference in Los Angeles Monday to condemn the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” and the violence that has surrounded it, I was meeting with Hussam Ayloush, the Corona resident who is executive director of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Ayloush said he hoped that one positive effect of the uproar over the video, and of extremist Copts’ involvement in it, would be more interfaith efforts between Coptic Christians and Muslims.
Ayloush said when he saw media coverage of the Copts over the weekend, he flashed back to the days following 9/11.
Just as many Americans had little familiarity with Islam before 9/11, most Americans knew little or nothing about Coptic Christians until the past week.
And as with Islam, what they saw was extremists, not the beliefs and lives of the majority of Copts, Ayloush said.
“This is not what the Coptic people and religion stand for,” he said.
Television viewers also saw people who, like some Muslims, appear very different from most Americans: Copts with long beards, foreign accents and long black robes. That can create a view among Americans that Copts aren’t Americans as others.
Ayloush said he has worked for years with Arab Christians and enjoys warm relations with them. The Syrian-born Ayloush grew up in Lebanon and attended a Christian school there.
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