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CINCINNATI - What started as a grassroots effort by Tri-State Muslim Americans to honor the four U.S. diplomats killed last week in Libya has gone viral on the Internet.
You may not have heard much about it around the Tri-State yet, but the story of the "Celebrate Mercy" Facebook page and website has been heard throughout the world on BBC radio and CNN International.
It's the brainchild of a young Muslim businessman and Procter & Gamble employee in Cincinnati who has watched his informal idea take off on the web.
Against the news of Libyan protests and then the attack on the U.S. consulate that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tarek el Messidi of Clifton decided to do something about it. He created the Facebook page "Celebrate Mercy" asking for condolence letters to be sent to Stevens' family.
"It's just gone viral. It got to the front page of Reddit.com. Then we got calls from all sorts of media. I was woken up by a call from Sweden. International Indonesia. It's just taken off. CNN and they're talking about 'The Daily Show,'" said el Messidi.
El Messidi says he had two reasons for making the condolence letter request on Facebook.
"We want to show that we really care for the family of this man and the other Americans and Libyans who were killed there and people who were dying because of some really lame video that came out on You Tube," he said.
He also wanted to show the world that not all Muslims agree with the attacks on the Libyan consulate or the protests against the U.S.
"We felt like bad Muslims are the ones in the news," he said. "We need to show that the vast majority of Muslims, 99.9 percent of the 1 billion Muslims are not in the streets and not vandalizing. They're not killing anyone. They are not burning things."
He says his site originally aimed for just 1,000 letters, but already has almost 5,000 people writing emotional condolences to the ambassador's family.
"When I first started reading the letters, I was tearing up. Because people were sincerely writing notes. It wasn't just like 'Rest In Peace.' It was long letters, very long letters from people, some who had actually met him. Who had actually interacted with him. Many Libyans and Libyan Americans, too," said el Messidi.
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