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September 2012, Week 2

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Thu, 13 Sep 2012 00:23:43 -0400
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Anti-Muslim Film: What We Know

     Video mocking Prophet Muhammad spurs attacks on US
     diplomatic missions in Benghazi and Cairo.

13 Sep 2012 02:48
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/09/201291214042970150.html

An obscure slapstick film said to be entitled Innocence
of Muslims or Life of Muhammed has been cited as the
cause for riots at US diplomatic posts in Egypt and
Libya.

But the existence of the purported filmmaker, Sam
Bacile, allegedly a 52-year-old Israeli-American real
estate developer, has not been proven.

In interviews with the AP news agency and the Wall
Street Journal, a man calling himself "Sam Bacile" said
he had raised about $5m to produce the film. He also was
quoted describing Islam as "a cancer", and claimed he
had raised money from "about 100 Jewish donors" to make
the video.

But the interview subject did not even give the same age
during his two known press interviews, as he told the AP
he was 56.

The man said the amateur, two-hour-long film had
involved dozens of actors and was produced in California
in 2011. But new reports suggest neither any prior
social media presence by the director nor any IMDB page
for the film.

The director of the California Film Commission - which
issues permits for films that are shot in the state,
told the Huffington Post that no permit was ever granted
to someone by the name "Sam Bacile".

'Desert Warrior'

The trailer for the film - which itself is so far
unavailable to the public - portrays Islam’s Prophet
Muhammad as a fraud and a womaniser, and depicts him
having sex. The entire film has only been shown once in
public, at a theatre in Hollywood, said the source who
identified himself as "Bacile".

He also explained he made the film because “after 9/11
everybody should be in front of the judge”, AP reported.
"Even Jesus, even Muhammad."

But actors who participated in the filming now say they
had no idea the film was even about Muhamad or Islam.
The original casting call was reportedly for a film
called "Desert Warrior" by director Alan Roberts.

And all the film's religious references were actually
dubbed after the original shooting.

Bacile is now reportedly in hiding, even though reports
suggest that the name is merely cover for a larger
group, or a pseudonym for someone who may be neither
Israeli nor Jewish - but who cited such an identify to
inflame tensions.

One of the actresses who says she was tricked into being
in the film says "Bacile" told her on set that he was
Egyptian, and that he spoke Arabic to other men present.

Reuters has reported that Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church
issued a statement condemning some Egyptian Christians
living aboard who it said had financed "the production
of a film insulting Prophet Muhammad".

In Egypt and Libya, public anger at the video spilled
over on Tuesday, leading to the death of the US
ambassador in Benghazi, Libya and the evacuation of
embassy workers in Cairo.

Spread on social media

How did an obscure film trailer come to have
international ramifications? It was first posted on
YouTube by a user called "sam bacile" in July 2012, and
has received about 450,000 views to date.

The trailer began to get more attention in September. On
September 4, the same user posted a version dubbed in
Arabic, which has garnered tens of thousands of views.

Morris Sadek, a Coptic Christian born in Egypt but who
lives in the US, told AP he had been promoting the film
on his website. He also tweeted a link to the trailer on
September 9.

Sadek, the head of the National American Coptic
Assembly, is known for his vehemently anti-Islam views,
and told the Wall Street Journal that “the violence that
it [the film] caused in Egypt is further evidence of how
violent the religion and people are".

Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans
in 2011 spurred riots across the Muslim world leading to
several deaths, also reportedly promoted the film.

The Arabic version of the trailer received heavy media
coverage in Egypt last week, including by controversial
hardline TV host Khaled Abdallah, who reported on the
film on September 8.

A clip of the show was posted to YouTube on September 9,
where it has received almost 400,000 views so far.

"The operation behind this film appears to be extreme
Egyptian Copts who want to discredit the Morsi
government and create a provocation," journalist Max
Blumenthal told Al Jazeera.

"They oppose the revolution and are aligned with
Christian right groups who have an apocalyptic,
theocratic agenda and who are inciting against Muslim-
Americans," Blumenthal said, adding, "They put Muslims
in the US in danger, they put Copts in Egypt in danger,
and they're putting US diplomats in danger."

YouTube clip blocked

The Afghan government on Wednesday temporarily blocked
YouTube in an effort to discourage people from watching
the clip. YouTube also blocked the video in Egypt,
agency reports said.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the company said:
"We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy
and which also enables people to express different
opinions.

"This can be a challenge because what's OK in one
country can be offensive elsewhere.

"This video - which is widely available on the web - is
clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on
YouTube. However, given the very difficult situation in
Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in
both countries.

"Our hearts are with the families of the people murdered
in [Tuesday's] attack in Libya."

Observers say Google has grown more averse to removing
videos. After its 2006 acquisition of YouTube, it was
accused of censorship in several high-profile
controversies.

"They're squeezed on all sides," said Rebecca MacKinnon,
a fellow at the New America Foundation. "But because of
pressure from a lot of people who feel they made the
wrong decisions, they now generally err on the side of
keeping things up."

In recent years, Google has used technology to filter
out videos in certain countries to comply with local
regulations.

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