There has been an outpouring of emotion in Libya since the killing of US ambassador Christopher Stevens, earlier this month.
Demonstrations and vigils have been held across Libya to protest against violence and hate.
In Benghazi, people even seized bases of the militias left over from the civil war, and disarmed the militiamen.
The government has now been forced to act, to assist with the disarmament.
Stevens and three embassy staff were killed on September 11th, as they fled the US Consulate in Benghazi, after it was attacked by gunmen during a protest against a video said to insult the Prophet Mohammad.
Libyan businessman, Alaeddin Muntasser, was a friend of Amb. Stevens.
He says most Libyans are upset by his death, “a man who loved this country and did so much for us.”
“These people,” he says, “have offended and tarnished both the reputation of Islam, the Prophet – peace be upon him – beyond any movie or cartoon or anything like that.”
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Marco Werman: There have been an outpouring of emotion in Libya since the killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens earlier this month and it’s not about the anti Islam video or cartoons of the Prophet. The demonstrations and vigils are to protest against violence and hate, and its all forced the Libyan government to take action. It says it’s disarming many of the militias left over from the revolution. Aladdin Muntasser was a friend of ambassador Stevens. He’s a Libyan, a businessman based in the Libyan capital Tripoli. Mr. Muntasser tell us about the kinds of demonstrations and vigils that have been taking place in Libya over the last couple of weeks.
Aladdin Muntasser: This has been going on in all major cities here but more so in Benghazi the city where that tragedy happened. Everybody knows who this amazing person was and what he’s done for this country. And regardless of that he’s an innocent man whose life was taken away for something that he had nothing to do with or his government. And there is no excuse for this, everybody agrees on that and if the issue was insulitng Islam or insulting our Prophet peace be upon him. These people have offended and tarnished both the reputation of Islam the Prophet beyond any movie or cartoon or anything like that.
Werman: Right. You say everyone agrees with what’s going on and the demonstrations but who is actually taking part in the demonstrations?
Muntasser: These are ordinary people. These are people who have realized that unless something is done by us, the same people who demonstrated for freedom and demonstrated to overthrow the regime, realize that our work is not done and now we are replacing one tyrant with many. These are just normal people that have nothing to do with the government. The govenment hasn’t done anything about the security situation or the militias that are…as we are seeing or we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks have really gotten out of control.
Werman: But now it seems that the government, the Libyan government, is aiming to disarm many of the militias, what’s going on there?
Muntassesr: Frankly I think the people of Benghazi have really done most of that work that it’s …the three major militias in Benghazi.
Werman: But wait…how do you do that if you are a civilian, you go out and you meet some of the Islamists and you say we need your guns?
Muntasser: Yeah they basically went to the main camps. And by the way one of those militias is based on the main camp in Benghzi where last year on February 17, probably the same people went there to face the guns and the anti aircraft machine guns of the Khadafi regime and also bravely took over that camp. And they’ve done the same thing now peacefully and those militias were overwhelmed by the number of people and the sentiment that we are not going to put up with that anymore.
Werman: I mean if citzens can go into a militia camp in Benghazi and get the militia men to lay down their guns what does that say about the strength of the militias?
Muntasser: They probably did use some restraint. There are some people who got shot, there are some people who got killed trying to take over these militias. But the number of people they realize, just like the regime last year realized before, they can’t really…people don’t care anymore about life and death they care more about living.
Werman: Mr. Muntasser you know the overwhelming image here in the US over the last two weeks has been of a Muslim world gripped with an immense rage against that movie Insulting the Prophet leading of course to the tragic death of ambassador Christopher Stevens then the massive rage against the French cartoon. The Libyan experience seems rather opposite to that reaction. What are your thoughts on that?
Muntasser: As I said before as a Muslim of course I am deeply offended by anything that insults. To us he is the greatest human being that ever lived so of course we are outraged…and…we will make our voices heard peacefully, things like that. But then once people take that as an excuse to commit crimes such as this to…you know peaceful protesting is one thing but to bring rpgs and antiaircraft machine guns and go and attack a friendly nation’s consulate, that’s just beyond anything that really is required in a situation like this. And as I said before that is a much bigger insult to our religion and our traditions of hospitality and friendship. This is beyond anything like that…the outrage we feel now that this is a much bigger problem than any silly movie or any silly cartoons. This is a much bigger issue than just…its not an attack just on America it’s an attack on Libya and on our friends and allies and in a country that prides itself on hospitality and on the protection of its friends that are being hosted here in Libya.
Werman: Tripoli businessman Alaedden Muntasser, thanks very much for speaking with us about the recent demonstrations against violence and guns in Libya.
Muntasser: Thank you.
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