In response to the controversy surrounding cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad, Muslim officials from Anaheim to Washington launched a nationwide campaign Tuesday aimed at educating the public about the religious leader.
Caricatures of Muhammad appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten last fall and have been reprinted in recent weeks elsewhere in Europe.
Their appearance has triggered often-violent protests by Muslims.
"The only way we can end this vicious cycle of violence is by understanding each other," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Anaheim.
By holding a dozen news conferences throughout the United States and Canada on Tuesday, the council said it hoped to turn a negative incident into a learning opportunity. Islamic leaders said many of the Southland's 70 mosques would hold open houses this month focusing on the life of Islam's prophet. The council also urged non-Muslims to visit its website, http://www.cair.com, to obtain a free DVD or book on Muhammad's teachings.