NEW YORK (AP) – Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed Monday to Muslims to show “dignity” and not resort to violence as they protest an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.
Speaking at her husband’s Clinton Global Initiative before meeting the presidents of Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya and Pakistan on the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly, Clinton said the United States would always champion the rights to peaceful protest and free expression even if it deplored the content of the speech. But, she said, “dignity does not come from avenging insults.”
Her comments came as demonstrators angry over the vulgar depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in the video continue to protest around the Muslim world.
“Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially with violence that can never be justified,” she said. “It comes from taking responsibility and advancing our common humanity.”
Fomenting grievance, Clinton said, produces violent protests that accomplish nothing in the way of improving living standards, creating jobs or developing societies.
“Building schools instead of burning them, investing in their people’s creativity, not inciting their rage, opening their economies and societies to have more connections with the wider world, not shutting off the internet or attacking embassies” is the way to better life, she said.
“Extremists around the world are working hard to drive us apart,” Clinton warned. “All of us need to stand together to resist these forces and to support democratic transitions under way in North Africa and the Middle East.”
The Obama administration has been grasping for ways to try to tamp down the fury over the video, especially in Pakistan, where some of the most intense and sustained protests have been held. The embassy in Islamabad released public-service advertisements showing President Barack Obama and Clinton denouncing the film.
Compounding the difficulty, a Pakistani Cabinet minister offered $100,000 to anyone who kills the maker of the film. The Pakistani government disavowed the bounty on Monday, just hours before Clinton was to meet with President Asif Ali Zardari.
“We very much appreciate the strong response of your government,” Clinton told Zardari as they began their meeting in a New York hotel.
Zardari replied: “It’s been a difficult time for all of us.”
Later, Clinton met with President Mohamed Magariaf of Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the consulate in Benghazi. She thanked him for the support offered by his government in the aftermath of the attack and praised the Libyan people for overthrowing Moammar Gadhafi last year.
“Courage has been the defining characteristic of the Libyan people over these last two years,” she said. “Courage to rise up and overthrow a dictator, courage to choose the hard path of democracy, courage to stand against violence and division in the country and the world.”
Magariaf called the consulate attack “a very painful, huge tragedy, not only for the American people and the families of the victims, but also for the Libyan people.” He noted that thousands of Libyans had marched in the streets to protest the attack and said those demonstrations “embodied the conscience of the Libyan people.”
“What happened on (the) 11th of September toward these US citizens does not express in any way the conscience of the Libyan people, their aspirations, their hopes or their sentiments toward the American people,” he said.
Later Monday, Clinton will also meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi.
Obama is speaking to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, but on Monday left the bilateral meetings with heads of state to Clinton while he taped an appearance on the daytime talk show “The View.” He attends a reception Monday evening.