Innocence of Muslims
| ||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize all of its contents. Please consider expanding the lead to provide an accessible overview of all of the article's key points.(September 2012)|
| ||It has been suggested that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula be merged into this article or section. (Discuss) Proposed since September 2012.|
Innocence of Muslims, previously called Innocence of Bn Laden [sic] (working title Desert Warrior), is an anti-Islam film, excerpts of which were posted on YouTube. According to one of the consultants to the film, it was a full-length feature film that was shown only once to the public—to an audience of fewer than ten people at a rented theater in Hollywood, California. The film was allegedly produced byNakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian.
Film trailers or excerpts of about 14 minutes in length were uploaded to YouTube in July 2012, with the titles The Real Life of Muhammad, and Muhammad Movie Trailer. Trailers dubbed in the Arabic language were uploaded in early September 2012 and spread by Egyptian-American blogger and Coptic Christian Morris Sadek. On September 8, 2012, an excerpt of the YouTube video was broadcast on Al-Nas TV, an Egyptian Islamist television station, previously suspended for “promoting religious or sectarian hatred”. Violent protests against the film broke out on September 11 in Egypt and Libya. The protests spread to Yemen and other Arab and Muslim nations over the following days and included attacks on U.S. consulates and embassies. A military-style attack on September 11, 2012 on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, may not have been a spontaneous protest due to the film, but rather may have been planned in advance, according the U.S. and Libyan officials.
Content and commentary
Sky News said the trailer was "anti-Muslim" and "designed to enrage". According to Reuters news service the trailer portrays Muhammad as a "fool, a philanderer and a religious fake"; NBC News said the trailer depicted Muhammad "as a womanizer, ahomosexual and a child abuser." Muhammad's followers are portrayed as "savage killers hungry for wealth and bent on killing women and children" according to the BBC.
The first scenes of the video purport to show present-day Egyptian Muslims burning the homes of Egyptian Christians while Egyptian Muslim security forces stand idle. The rest of the trailer purports to portray scenes from the prophet Muhammad's life. One scene implies his wife Khadija ordered that the Quran be written by mixing parts of the Torah and the New Testament into false verses. In another scene, the character Muhammad calls a donkey "the first Muslim animal", with Time magazine describing the dialogue as "homoerotic".
The New Republic said that the film "includes not a single artistically redeemable aspect at all." The reviewer described the directing as "atrocious"; the sets "terrible"; the acting as consisting of "blank eyes and strained line readings". The New York Daily News called it "obscenely inept vanity project" that is "far beneath any reasonable standard of movie-making." Muslim filmmaker Kamran Pasha stated, "I am of the opinion that it is a film of questionable artistic merit, backed by a group of bitter bigots whose only agenda was to incite hatred and violence by smearing the character of Prophet Muhammad." Salman Rushdie, who was in hiding until 2002 due to death threats and an assassination order fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini for his novel The Satanic Verses, called the film "outrageous and unpleasant and disgusting."
The cast and crew have publicly stated that they were deceived about the purpose and content of the film. In a statement obtained byCNN, the film's 80 cast and crew members disavowed the film, saying: "The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose." It further explained, "We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred." Cindy Lee Garcia, who played the mother of Muhammad's bride-to-be, said the script was for a movie about life in Egypt 2,000 years ago, called Desert Warrior (and possibly also Desert Storm), and that the character "Muhammad" was referred to as "Master George" on set. According to Garcia, "Bacile" claimed to be an Israeli real estate mogul. Later, however, he told her he was Egyptian and she heard him speaking in Arabic with other men on set. Garcia stated it makes her "sick" that she was involved in the film and that she is considering legal action against "Bacile." Sarah Abdurrahman, a producer for WNYC's On the Media program, watched the trailer and concluded that all of the religious references were overdubbed after filming. The independent film was directed by a person first identified in casting calls as Alan Roberts, whose original cut did not include references to Muhammad or Islam.
In September 2012, "Sam Bacile" was initially described as a 56-year-old (52-year-old according to the Wall Street Journal) real estate developer from Israel who spoke by phone with the Associated Press. Israeli authorities found no sign of him being an Israeli citizen, and there was no indication of a 'Sam Bacile' around 50 years old living in California, having a real estate license or participating in Hollywood filmmaking. Though "Bacile" claimed the film had been made for $5 million from more than 100 Jewish donors, Hollywood Reporter described the film's appearance as unprofessional, bringing this claim into doubt. According to a man who identified himself to the Wall Street Journal as Bacile, the film was produced to call attention to what he called the "hypocrisies" ofIslam. After further reports suggested that Bacile was neither Israeli nor Jewish, Rabbi Abraham Cooper condemned initial reports that Bacile was Jewish and the movie was financed by "100 Jewish donors," saying that whoever told this to the Associated Press committed ablood libel and said that the media did not thoroughly research this claim. Cooper said that to "catapult what might be a nonexistent Jewish element could lead to violence against Jews," and called on the media to learn from this incident, while investigating who exactly created the film.
Later, "Sam Bacile" was identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian immigrant from Egypt living in Cerritos, California, near Los Angeles. In 2010, Nakoula, who had served prison time on a 1990s conviction for manufacturing methamphetamine, pleaded no contest to bank fraud and was sentenced to 21 months in prison; he was released on probation from prison in June 2011.Authorities said Nakoula told the police that he had written the movie's script while in prison and, together with his son, Abanob Basseley, raised between $50,000 and $60,000 from his wife's family in Egypt to finance the film. According to CNN, the FBI contacted him because of the potential for threats, but he is not under investigation by the FBI. However, federal officials are investigating whether Nakoula violated the terms of his probation, which barred him from using the Internet for five years. According to The Smoking Gun, Nakoula had planned to produce the film as early as May 2009, when he first took out ads for crew members. However, he was arrested on the bank fraud charges a month later; after his arrest, Nakoula cooperated with prosecution to obtain a reduced sentence.
American non-profit Media for Christ obtained film permits to shoot the movie in August 2011, and Nakoula provided his home as a set and paid the actors, according to government officials and those involved in the production. Media for Christ president Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih reportedly went into hiding after the violent response to the film.
Steve Klein, a Vietnam veteran who has been active in opposing Islam and has been associated with paramilitary style "hate groups" at his church according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, was asked by Nakoula to be the spokesman for the film. The movie's self-identified consultant, Klein reportedly told Nakoula: "You're going to be the next Theo van Gogh." Klein later told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that "Bacile" is not a real person and is neither Israeli nor Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is a pseudonym for about 15 Copts and Evangelical Christians from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan and Egypt; Goldberg questioned the reliability of Klein. Klein rejected any blame for the violent reaction to the movie, saying, "Do I feel guilty that these people were incited? Guess what? I didn't incite them. They're pre-incited, they're pre-programmed to do this."
The film's screening as "Innocence of Bn Laden" was advertised in the "Arab World newspaper" during the months of both May and June. The ad cost $300 to run three times in the paper and was paid by an individual identified only as "Joseph". The ads were noted by the Anti-Defamation League. The Islamic affairs director stated: "When we saw the advertisement in the paper, we were interested in knowing if it was some kind of pro-jihadist movie." Brian Donnelly, a guide for a Los Angeles based tour of famous crime scenes, noticed the poster advertising at the Vine Theatre. "I didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. We didn't know what it was about because we can't read Arabic. The earlier version of the film was screened once at the Vine Theatre in Hollywood California of June 23, 2012 to an audience of only ten people. The film had no subtitles and was presented in English. An employee of the theatre stated: “The film we screened was titled ‘The Innocence of Bin Laden’,” and added that it was a “small viewing.”
A second screening was planned for June 30, 2012. A local Hollywood blogger, John Walsh attended a June 29 Los Angeles City Council meeting where he raised his concerns about the film's screening. “There is an alarming event occurring in Hollywood on Saturday,” he stated. “A group has rented the Vine Street theater to show a video entitled ‘Innocence of Bin Laden.’ We have no idea what this group is.” The blog site reported that the June 30 screening had been canceled. A Current TV producer photographed the poster while it was being displayed at the theatre as advertising to later discuss on the program "The Young Turks." According to one attendee, "the acting was of the worst caliber," and he "had no inkling that that movie was anti-Islamic and did not recall the movie referencing the prophet Mohammad," but he did not see the whole film.
It was reported on September 14, 2012, that a planned screening by a Hindu organization in Toronto will be coupled with "snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus." Because of security concerns no public venue has been willing to show the film; it will be shown in private for a small audience of 200 people. Siobhán Dowling of the The Guardian reported that "a far-right Islamophobic group in Germany", The Pro Deutschland Citizens' Movement, has uploaded the trailer on their own website and wants to show the entire film but authorities are attempting to prevent it.
Two clips were posted on YouTube on July 1 (13'02", title "The Real Life of Muhammad", comment "Part of the movie, "Life of Muhammad"..... اجزاء من فيلم حياة محمد") and 2nd (13'50", title "Muhammad Movie Trailer", comment "فضيحة الاسلام الكبري") by user "sam bacile".By September, the film had been dubbed into Arabic and was brought to the attention of the Arabic-speaking world by Coptic bloggerMorris Sadek, whose Egyptian citizenship had been revoked for promoting calls for an attack on Egypt. A two-minute excerpt dubbed in Arabic was broadcast on September 8 by Sheikh Khalad Abdalla on Al-Nas, an Egyptian television station, On September 11, "Sam Bacile" YouTube account commented in Egyptian Arabic on a video from Al-Nahar TV uploaded 2 days earlier "يابهايم دة فيلم امريكي 100%" which means: "Idiots, this is an American film 100%".
The film was supported by pastor Terry Jones, whose burning of copies of the Quran previously led to deadly riots around the world. On September 11, 2012, Jones said that he planned to show a 13-minute trailer that night at his church the Dove World Outreach Center inGainesville, Florida. Jones said in a statement that "it is an American production, not designed to attack Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam. The movie further reveals in a satirical fashion the life of Muhammad."
Sheikh Khaled Abdullah, in his broadcast of September 8 on Al-Nas television, criticized the film's depiction of Muhammad. The Times reported that the same day the film was denounced by the leader[who?] of an Egyptian political party[which?] in a Cairo newspaper[which?]. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi urged the United States government to prosecute the film producers whom he referred to as "madmen". The U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued a statement condemning what it called "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims," an apparent reference to the video.
On September 12, YouTube announced that it had "temporarily restricted access" to the video in Egypt and Libya. Several news services have reported that "Bacile" has gone into hiding fearing that current actions could be used as an excuse to harm him, and that he continued to defend the film. Saying he was sorry for the death of Stevens, "Bacile" blamed the consulate's security system. Afghanistan decided to censor YouTube and President Hamid Karzai said the makers of the film committed a "devilish act".
The showings of the film's trailer resulted in protests and deaths and hundreds of injuries in several cities in the world. Some U.S. officials, speaking under anonymity, said that they believed the Benghazi attack was coordinated and planned in advance, and not prompted by the film. Al-Qaeda has indicated responsibility and said it was in revenge for a U.S. drone strike which killed Libyan Abu Yahya al-Libi, an al-Qaeda leader.
The film has been condemned by the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church as "an inflammatory movie about the prophet of Islam." Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles said in a statement that it "rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the Diaspora in the latest production of an inflammatory movie about the prophet of Islam ... The name of our blessed parishioners should not be associated with the efforts of individuals who have ulterior motives." In addition, the World Council of Churches stated that the film was “an insult to the heart of the Muslim faith” and “to all peoples of faith.”
Anti-Defamation League director Abraham Foxman said, "We are greatly concerned that this false notion that an Israeli Jew and 100 Jewish backers were behind the film now has legs and is gathering speed around the world. [...] In an age where conspiracy theories, especially ones of an anti-Semitic nature, explode on the Internet in a matter of minutes, it is crucial for those news organizations who initially reported on his identity to correct the record." Foxman specifically criticized "news organizations across the Arab world and anti-Semites and anti-Israel activists" for continuing to describe the filmmaker and backers as Jewish despite the fact that no Jews were involved in the making of the film.
|Nigeria||Top Muslim Nigerian clerics condemned the film, but advised against demonstrations. "Such actions are orchestrated by the enemies of peace to bring about chaos which must be condemned by religious leaders all over the world". Nevertheless security forces around the country were on alert for trouble.|
|Niger||The Niger Islamic Council has repudiated the film that has caused mass riots and called for Christian churches to be spared in the protests. However, hundreds of protesters stormed and ransacked Catholic cathedral in Zinder and burned American and British flags. One policeman was injured and about a dozen protesters were arrested.|
|Somalia||Nearly a thousand people protested the film in Mogadishu, Somalia.|
|Sudan||Several hundred protesters from a group called "Sudanese Youth" gathered outside of the U.S. embassy inKhartoum on September 12. The embassy met with three protesters, who delivered written demands asking for an apology and the removal of the YouTube video.|
|Canada||More than 100 people held demonstrations at Calgary's City Hall. Mahdi Qasqas with the Muslim Council of Calgary says that the protest does not only concern about the latest anti-Islam film. "This is not the only hate-filled, hate-speech video that’s out there — there are many," Quaqas said. "Hate is not just a phenomena that’s related to Muslims. It’s related to all minorities all non-dominant population groups and we’re here to stop all of that.”|
|Bangladesh||1,000 members of the Bangladesh Khilafat Andolan group demonstrated and attempted to march on the U.S. embassy in Dhaka, though they were stopped from approaching the embassy by police. There were no reports of violence.|
|India||Demonstrations were held in Srinagar, Kashmir, as local imams denounced the film saying "It is our right to protest against this heinous act aimed at hurting the sentiments of the Muslims. However, we should not indulge in vandalism as we will causing harm to our own property. We shall remain peaceful." During a protest started on September 14 and continued for three days, U.S. consulate at Chennai was pelted with stones breaking some window panes, allegely by members Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazagam and as a result, issuing of Visa by the consulate was cancelled for two days.|
|Indonesia||An anti-American and anti-Israeli demonstration was held outsite the embassy in Jakarta by about 200 protesters.|
|Malaysia||A protest was held by a group of about 30 Muslims representing various Islamic organizations at the American embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Protests were also held at Batu Caves and in the northern city ofIpoh.|
|Maldives||Protests were held against the film.|
|Pakistan||Protests were held at the U.S. embassy in Islamabad and in Peshawar, Karachi and Swat by the Jamaat-e-Islami, while demonstration were held in Lahore by the Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool and in Multan by Jamiat Talba Arbia and Shehri Mahaz. On September 13, 2012, Altaf Hussain ( Chief of Mutahidda Qaumi Movement, the third largest political party of Pakistan) sent a telegram to President of United States,Barrack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary General of United Nations Ban Ki-moon and Secretary General of OIC Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu in which he demanded that the movie should be banned immediately as it has hurt the feelings of over one billion Muslims throughout the world.|
|Philippines||On September 15, more than 300 protesters organized in Marawi, Lanao del Sur over the film and burned American flags. There were threats to kill Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is believed to be behind the controversial film. American interest remained unharmed in the province. The largest Muslim insurgent group Moro Islamic Liberation Front urged Filipino Muslims not to resort to violence.  More than 300 protesters organized in Marawi, Lanao del Sur over the film and burned American flags on September 17.|
|Sri Lanka||Protests were held in eastern Sri Lanka against the film.|
|Thailand||On 17 September 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Thailand indicated on its website that Royal Thai Police had informed it that an anti-film demonstration was scheduled to take place in front of the Embassy on 18 September 2012 from 13:00-14:00 hrs. The Embassy indicated it would close its offices that day from noon on. Violence was not expected but the Embassy is closing for precautionary purposes}}</ref>|
|Belgium||Demonstrations were held in Antwerp in response to the anti-Islam film on September 16. The protestors chanted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag. The Belgian police arrested 230 people, a leader of the Islamist group Sharia4Belgium is among those arrested.|
|France||Over 100 arrested in protest of anti-Islam film outside U.S. embassy in Paris. On Saturday afternoon September 15, 2012, up to 250 protesters gathered around the U.S. embassy in Paris responding to a call put out on Facebook, police officer Pierre Coric said.|
|Netherlands||The American consulate in Amsterdam closed earlier than usual on September 14 in anticipation of a protest. A peaceful demonstration of around 30 people took place on the Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam. Dutch politician Geert Wilders linked the Youtube video Innocence of Muslims to his website. Shortly after it became known that Wilders had put the video online, his own website and that of the Party for Freedom became unreachable. Geert Wilders motivated his action by stating "defending freedom of expression is the greatest good. Everyone should do that as a signal that violence is not accepted and is not working."|
|United Kingdom||A demonstration of 200 people gathered outside the U.S. embassy in London, burning the U.S. and Israeli flags. The Daily Mail reported Anjem Choudary was leading the flag-burning protests. No reports of violence.|
Middle East and North Africa
|Afghanistan||A demonstration of about 1,000 people was held against the film in Jalalabad. The protesters burned an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama.|
|Bahrain||A demonstration of 2,000 protesters was held in Diraz, a focal point for Shiite opposition to the Sunni monarchy.|
|Iran||Protests occurred outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran which represents American interests in the Islamic Republic. Iranian police prevented the protesters from reaching the embassy gates, and no injuries were reported. The Iranian Foreign Ministry condemned the film as "an insult to sacred Muslim figures" while criticizing the response of the United States government. In response to the film, Ayatollah Hassan Sanei, the leader of the state-linked religious foundation that originally placed a bounty on Salman Rushdie's head, increased the reward by $500,000 to whoever kills Rushdie. This increases the reward to $3.3 million, despite Rushdie having nothing to do with the film Innoncence of Muslims.|
|Iraq||Reuters reported that hundreds protested against the film in Baghdad's Sadr City and in Basra. A smaller crowd protested in Najaf. Protesters burned American flags, chanted "Death to America" and called on the Iraqi government to expel the American diplomats. The protests were organized by Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and, at least in Basra, included both Sunni and Shi'ite clerics. In Hilla in the Shiite-dominated southern region, American and Israeli flags were burned. In Samarra clerics demanded a boycott of American goods.|
|Israel||About 50 members of the Islamic Movement in Israel protested in front the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, alleging that the United States' government sponsors "little people" who hurt Islam and Muslims. There were no clashes or disturbances. In Acre, Arab protestors said that "only Islamic rule throughout the world will make peace. Jews and Christians can live without fear under the wings of Islam." Some chanted support forOsama bin Laden as well.|
|Jordan||In Amman 200 Salafis demonstrated at the U.S. embassy while 1400 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in central Amman.|
|Lebanon||Protestors torched a KFC and a Hardee's in Tripoli.|
|Kuwait||An anti-American demonstration was held outside the U.S. embassy in Kuwait by about 200 protesters.|
|Mauritania||Protests were held in the capital, Nouakchott.|
|Morocco||Agence France Press reported that 300 to 400 protesters had gathered outside the U.S. Consulate inCasablanca on September 12, amid a heavy presence of Moroccan police. The protest was non-violent, organized via social media and did not appear to be organized by a specific group. Around 200 hardline Islamists gathered in Salé, twin town to the Moroccan capital Rabat, shouting anti-U.S. slogans and burning U.S. flags.|
|Palestinian territories||Protests were reported in the Gaza Strip as being called for by the Hamas government's Ministry of Religious Endowments in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council building in Gaza city. Dozens of Palestinians protested, while some burned American and Israeli flags, chanting, "Death to America! Death to Israel!" International agencies closed their offices in Gaza for a day as a precautionary measure. The following day, 30,000 Palestinians across the Gaza strip protested the film, with Hamas and the smallerIslamic Jihad faction encouraging protests. In Gaza city 25,000 took to the streets, burned American and Israeli flags along with an effigy of the film's producer. Several hundred people protested in Nablus in the northern West Bank and burned an American flag.|
|Saudi Arabia||A protest was held outside of McDonald's in Buraidah.|
|Syria||A demonstration of 200 people march on the empty U.S. embassy in Damascus.|
|Tunisia||Irish Times reports that 200 protesters demonstrated in front of the United States embassy in Tunis, throwing rocks, burning the American flag and chanting slogans. They were dispersed by police with teargas and rubber bullets.|
|Turkey||Hundreds gathered at Beyazit Square in Istanbul in a peaceful demonstration against the film called by the Turkish Felicity Party (aka as Saadet Party), a marginal conservative party not represented in the Turkish parliament.|
|Australia||On September 15, 2012, up to 500 people gathered to protest the film outside the United States Consulate General in Martin Place, Sydney, New South Wales. Demonstrators, including children, carried signs saying "Behead all those who insult the Prophet" and chanted pro-Islamic and pro-Osama bin Ladensentiments. Police attempted to form a line in front of the protesters however the line broke which caused the demonstration to become mobile. Police used pepper spray and deployed police dogs amid violent confrontations with protesters. Six police officers, several protesters and civilians were injured, two police vehicles were also damaged in the protest. Protesters directly attacked police by throwing projectiles and assaulting officers with banners, the latter led to one officer being knocked unconscious.|
- Blasphemy law in the United States
- Criticism of Islam
- Fitna (2008); Dutch film about Islam which led to worldwide Muslim protests and a hate speech trial
- Freedom of speech versus blasphemy
- Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson; most recent U.S. Supreme Court case on blasphemy in motion picture (1952)
- Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy after 12 editorial cartoons, most of which depicted Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005
- Mohammad, Messenger of God (1976); an international film that led to the 1977 Hanafi Siege by African American Islamic militants in Washington
- Persecution of Copts
- Submission (2004); short film about mistreatment of women in Islam
- The Satanic Verses controversy; heated and frequently violent reaction of some Muslims to the publication of Salman Rushdie's 1988 novel The Satanic Verses in the UK
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Economy, Randy (September 13, 2012). World media converge on quiet Cerritos cul-de-sac in search of Anti-Islamic film maker.MediaNews Group
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