Innocence of Muslims

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula

Innocence of Muslims is an anti-Muslim amateur 2012 film produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Months after it was shown one time in a Hollywood theater, two film trailers were released on YouTube, in 2012. The trailers were dubbed into Arabic, and then spread by Egyptian American blogger and Coptic Christian Morris Sadek.

A two-minute excerpt from the film was broadcast an Egyptian Islamist television station. Violent protests against the film broke out on September 11. The protests spread to Libya, Yemen, and other Arab and Muslim nations over the following days, included the 2012 diplomatic missions attacks, incorporating an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, that resulted the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The film has sparked protests around the world. Visual depictions of Muhammad are considered forbidden in some traditions of Islam: although the Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, there are a few supplemental teachings (hadith) that do. Depictions of Muhammad have previously led to mass protests, violence and terrorist attacks, such as in 2005 when Danish newspaper ‘Jyllands-Posten’ invited 40 caricaturists to sketch their interpretation of Muhammad, and published the 12 cartoons that were received.

‘Sky News’ said the film clip was anti-Muslim and ‘designed to enrage.’ According to Reuters news service, the film trailer portrays Muhammad as a ‘fool, a philanderer and a religious fake’; NBC News said the trailer depicted Muhammad ‘as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.’ The video opens with Egyptian Muslims burning the homes of Egyptian Christians while Egyptian security forces are standing idle. The following scene goes back to Muhammad’s time. His wife Khadija is shown to create the Koran out of Old and New Testament verses; the film portrays this as the founding of Islam. Muhammad’s followers are portrayed as ‘savage killers hungry for wealth and bent on killing women and children.’ In the excerpt of the film and the trailer, the character of Muhammad calls a donkey ‘the first Muslim animal,’ with ‘Time’ describing the scene as showing Muhammad having a ‘homoerotic, one-sided conversation with a donkey.’

The cast and crew have publicly stated that they were deceived about the purpose and content of the film. In a statement obtained by CNN, 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.’ 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 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. All of the religious references in the film were overdubbed after filming. The independent film was produced and directed by a person first identified in casting calls as Alan Roberts. After the film’s original content was altered without knowledge of the original director, a man named ‘Sam Bacile’ took credit for directing the film.

Sam Bacile was initially described as a 56-year-old 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. Later, 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. 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.

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