Palestinian Islamists burn an effigy portraying President Barack Obama during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh near Sidon, Lebanon, September 14th. Photo: AP
This posting has been updated to 5 items:
1) Al Ahram: Palestinians protest anti-Islam film in Gaza, Jerusalem;
2) Moni Basu, CNN: New details emerge of anti-Islam film’s mystery producer;
3) Huffington Post: ‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Cast Say Film That Sparked Riots Was Dubbed From ‘Master George’ To ‘Muhammad’;
4) CNN: war of rhetoric, violent acts;
5) AP: Egypt’s Christians denounce film, but fearful;
Palestinians protest anti-Islam film in Gaza, Jerusalem
Thousands of Palestinians protest the American anti-Muslim film in Jerusalem and Gaza Strip amid clashes with Israeli forces; protesters set fire to US flag
By AFP/ Al Ahram
September 14, 2012
Palestinians on Friday protested an anti-Muslim film, with thousands gathering in the Gaza Strip and hundreds in Jerusalem where there were clashes with Israeli police.
In Gaza, thousands of people rallied at demonstrations in Gaza City and the southern town of Rafah, a day after the ruling Hamas party urged citizens to turn out for protests after Friday prayers.
Protesters waved the flags of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements, and set fire to American flags, chanting “Death, death to America, death, death to Israel.”
Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya, in a sermon during Friday prayers, repeated a call on Washington to apologise for the film, produced in the United States.
“The US administration should apologise to the Arab and Islamic nation for this offensive film and bring these criminals to justice,” he said.
Haniya said the film was the result of “a Jewish-American-Crusader alliance to ignite a war on Islam and sectarian strife, particularly in Egypt.”
The amateur production called “Innocence of Muslims,” which was virtually unheard of before this week, has sparked violent protests across the Middle East.
The US ambassador to Libya and three other US personnel were killed during demonstrations linked to the film in the city of Benghazi, and four people were killed on Thursday when Yemeni police opened fire at a protest in Sanaa.
In Jerusalem, demonstrations were held after prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque in the Old City.
The protests began peacefully with several hundred people demonstrating on the plaza that holds both the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques, chanting, “With our blood and our soul, we will sacrifice for you our Prophet.”
But clashes broke out between a part of the crowd and Israeli police as the demonstration moved out of the Old City, with security forces firing tear gas and stun grenades that injured at least five people, an AFP correspondent said.
“Israel police are dispersing rioters at Damascus Gate, rocks and stones are being thrown at them,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said demonstrators appeared to be trying to head to US diplomatic premises in east Jerusalem, with Israeli police, some on horseback, seeking to prevent the protest from moving.
New details emerge of anti-Islam film’s mystery producer
By Moni Basu, CNN
September 14, 2012
Some time in the summer, a small theater in Los Angeles screened a movie to which hardly anyone came.
It was a clunky film filled with scenes in a desert and in tents. The characters were cartoonish; the dialogue gauche.
The actors who’d responded to a July 2011 casting call thought they were making an adventure film set 2,000 years ago called “Desert Warrior.” That’s how Backstage magazine and other acting publications described it.
The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent desert action flick. Instead, the movie, backed by hardcore anti-Islam groups in the United States, is a tome on Islam as fraud. In trailers posted on YouTube in July, viewers saw this: scene after scene of the Prophet Mohammed portrayed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester.
Islam forbids all depictions of Mohammed, let alone insulting ones.
Staff and crew of film that ridiculed Muslims say they were ‘grossly misled’
The Muslim world erupted in rage.
Protesters aired their anti-American anger in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Violent mobs attacked the U.S. Consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi leaving the ambassador and three other Americans dead.
As outrage spread, the film’s origins still remained murky. Whose idea was it? Who financed it? At the heart of the mystery was the filmmaker himself, a man identified in the casting call as Sam Bassiel, on the call sheet as Sam Bassil and reported at first by news outlets as Sam Bacile.
But federal officials consider that man to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was convicted in 2009 of bank fraud.
The FBI contacted the filmmaker because of the potential for threats, a federal law enforcement official told CNN Thursday. But he is not under investigation.
With media parked at his residence in Cerritos, California, Nakoula called the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday night to report a disturbance, said spokesman Steve Whitmore. He wanted local police to protect him.
When news of his movie first broke, the filmmaker identified himself as Sam Bacile and told the Wall Street Journal that he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California. He said Jewish donors had financed his film.
But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there was no record of a Sam Bacile with Israeli citizenship.
“This guy is totally anonymous. At this point, no one can confirm he holds Israeli citizenship, and even if he did we are not involved,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
A search by CNN of public records related to Bacile came up empty. A search of entertainment records turned up no previous mention of a Sam Bacile, and the directors and writers guilds had no listing for him.
CNN has not been able to speak with the filmmaker.
A production staff member who worked on the film in its initial stages told CNN that an entirely different name was filed on the paperwork for the Screen Actors Guild: Abenob Nakoula Bassely. A public records search showed an Abanob B. Nakoula residing at the same address as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
He believed the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian and when the two spoke on the phone during production, the filmmaker said he was in Alexandria, Egypt, raising money for the film. There has been a long history of animosity between Muslims and the minority Copts in Egypt.
Another staffer who worked on the film said he knew the producer as Sam Bassil. That’s how he signed a personal check to pay staff. The staffer said he was “99% positive” that Sam Bassil was not Jewish. He had quite a few religious pieces in his house, including images of the Madonna. He was married with two children — the daughter helped during production and even brought in lunch on a few occasions, the staffer said.
Neither staffer wanted to be identified for security reasons.
When CNN inquired about Sam Bassil, the U.S. attorney’s office sent a copy of a 2009 indictment. Those court documents showed the bank fraud conviction for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Several other aliases — Mark Basseley Youssef, Yousseff M. Basseley, Nicola Bacily and Malid Ahlawi — were all listed as aliases in the indictment. Other court documents listed Thomas J. Tanas, Ahmad Hamdy and Erwin Salameh also as aliases.
In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker characterized his movie, now called “Innocence of Muslims,” as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.” “Islam is a cancer,” he said. “The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie.”
Cindy Garcia, an actress in the film, told CNN that the original script did not include a Prophet Mohammed character. She said she and other actors complained that their lines had been changed. She said she spoke Wednesday with the producer.
“He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing,” Garcia said. “I had no idea he was doing all this.”
Garcia described the movie’s repercussions as a “nightmare,” given the outrage and deaths, and she regretted having a role. She said she was angry and hurt by the lies.
The 79 other cast and crew members said they were “grossly misled” about the film’s intent. The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement. They said they were “shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”
Garcia said that the character of Mohammed in the movie was named George when it was shot, and that after production wrapped she returned and read other lines that may have been dubbed into the piece. A member of the production staff who worked on the film and has a copy of the original script corroborated the woman’s account. There was no mention of Mohammed or Islam, the crew member said.
The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal Jewish donors contributed $5 million to make the film. Based on the trailer, however, the amateurish movie appears to have been produced on a low budget.
Anti-Muslim activist Steve Klein, who said he was a script consultant for the movie, said the filmmaker told him his idea was to make a film that would reveal “facts, evidence and proof” about the Prophet Mohammed to people he perceived as radical Muslims.
Klein said the movie was called “Innocence of Bin Laden.” “Our intent was to reach out to the small minority of very dangerous people in California and try to shock them into understanding how dangerous Islam is,” Klein said.
“We knew that it was going to cause some friction, if anybody paid attention to it,” he said.
But when Klein went to the screening in the Los Angeles theater, no one was there.
“It was a bust, a wash,” he said.
But a while later, the trailers were online. They were segments focusing on the Prophet Mohammed and posted under the title, “Innocence of Mohammed.” The trailers were translated into Egyptian dialects of Arabic, the New York Times reported. Egyptian television aired certain segments.
And the fury erupted.
Klein told CNN Wednesday that the filmmaker, whom he called Sam Bacile, was in hiding. “He’s very depressed, and he’s upset,” Klein said. “I talked to him this morning, and he said that he was very concerned for what happened to the ambassador.”
The Atlantic later quoted Klein as saying that Sam Bacile was a pseudonym. He said he did not know Bacile’s real name.
Klein is known in Southern California for his vocal opposition to the construction of a mosque in Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2010. He heads up Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, a group that contends Islam is a threat to American freedom.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says Klein, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, helped train militant Christian fundamentalists prepare for war.
On Thursday, a Los Angeles County official denied a CNN’s request to view a copy of the film permit filed for the production of “Innocence of Muslims.” “While these permits are typically made available to the public, online, this particular permit has been temporarily removed at the specific request of Federal authorities, who have cited public safety concerns,” county Assistant Chief Executive Officer Ryan J. Alsop told CNN in an e-mail. Alsop later revised his statement to say that the permit “is not being made available to the public at this time due to public safety concerns raised by the U.S. State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Federal government has not issued an official request to the County of Los Angeles to remove the permit.”
A permit is required when filming is done outside of a certified soundstage or studio backlot, which could involve cameras in public spaces, according to Film L.A. Inc., the private nonprofit group set up by the city and county of Los Angeles to process film permits.
The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin about how the film poses “security concerns to U.S. interests at home and abroad,” according to the bulletin obtained by CNN. “Although there has been no violent reaction to the film in the Homeland thus far, the risk of violence could increase both at home and abroad as the film continues to gain attention. Additionally, we judge that violent extremist groups in the United States could exploit anger over the film to advance their recruitment efforts,” the bulletin says.
The movie got even more notice after it was promoted by anti-Islam activists, including Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Morris Sadek and Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose Quran-burning last year sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan.
Jones said he had been contacted to help distribute the film. “The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Mohammed that are possibly not widely known,” Jones said in a statement.
“It is very clear that God did not influence him (Mohammed) in the writings of the Quran,” said Jones, who went on to blame Muslims’ fear of criticism for the protests, rather than the film.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones to ask him to withdraw his support for the film, said Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman. “Jones’ support of the film risks causing more violence and death,” Lapan said.
That fear mounted as anger raged in the Muslim world and especially as Friday, Islam’s day of religious observance, fast approached.
‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Cast Say Film That Sparked Riots Was Dubbed From ‘Master George’ To ‘Muhammad’
By Jessica Elgot, Huffington Post UK
September 13, 2012
The director of an anti-Islam film that reportedly sparked deadly protests in Libya and Egypt is said to have duped actors into believing they were making a movie about “Master George”, and not the Prophet Muhammad.
Bloggers analysing the script and YouTube clips of “Innocence of Muslims”, a woefully amateur film which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual who endorses extramarital sex and paedophilia, also say the prophet’s name appears to have been dubbed over in post production.
The actors say they were given a script with the name ‘Master George’, a fictitious character, which was then changed into ‘Muhammad’ without them knowing.
A statement released on the behalf of 80 cast and crew members read: “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. 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.”
The film had a cast of 59 actors with 45 crew.
The YouTube film sparked protests in Cairo and Benghazi, and were said to have been the reason behind the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
The US is now investigating whether protests about the film might have been a smokescreen for a premeditated terrorist attack on the embassy, to coincide with 9/11.
The original casting note, posted on Craig’s List advertised:
NOW CASTING SAG [Screen Actors Guild] and NON SAG ACTORS for “DESERT WARRIOR.” Director Alan Roberts. Historical desert drama set in Middle East. Indie Feature film shoots 18 days in L.A. in August. Studio and backlot locations. Male Roles: DR. MATTHEW (Lead): Middle Eastern Pharmacist, 40-50, intelligent, family man; GEORGE (Lead); 40-50, Middle Eastern warrior leader, romantic, charismatic; YOUNG GEORGE (featured) 18-22; PRIEST (featured): 60-70, bearded; ABDO (featured), 60-70, Elder tribe leader; ISRAELI MEN 30-50 (featured); WARRIORS (featured) 18-50, Various Middle Eastern types, bearded. Female Roles: CONDALISA (featured) 40, attractive, successful, strong willed; HILLARY (featured) 18 but must look younger, petite; innocent; YOUSTINA (featured) 16-18, Daughter of doctor; MIDDLE EASTERN WOMEN (Various Featured Roles) 18-40, attractive, exotic; OLDER WOMAN (featured) 60-70, feisty. Please place Role desired in SUBJECT: line of email. Indicate SAG or NON-SAG
Sarah Abdurrahman, wrote for On The Media, that she had analysed the trailer for the film, a 14 minute clip, where every reference to Islam has been poorly dubbed in post-production.
She said: “Anytime the actors are referring to something specific to the religion, the Prophet Muhammad, the Quran etc, the audio recorded during filming is replaced with a poorly executed post-production dub.
“And if you look even closer, you can see that the actors’ mouths are saying something other than what the dub is saying. For example, the voiceover says “His name is Muhammed. And we can call him The Father Unknown.”
“In this case, the whole line is dubbed, and it appears the actor is actually saying, “His name is George. And we can call him The Father Unknown.”
“I assume the filmmakers thought they were being slick, thinking that dubbing the whole line instead of just the name would make it more seamless and less noticeable to the viewer. But once you start to look for these dubs, it’s hard to see anything else.”
“There are countless other examples throughout the trailer, and I imagine throughout the full length film as well. But why would the filmmaker do this? I can’t help but wonder if the actors involved in the project were told what kind of film they were making.
“If you remove all the references to Islam in the trailer, the movie reads like some cheesy Arabian Nights story, and it is quite possible that that is all the actors thought they were doing.”
Various obscene references appear to have been dubbed into the film, including references to “false verses” in to Quran, and actors calling Muhammad a “murderous thug” and a “child molester”.
Abdurrahman added: “As an American, a Libyan, a Muslim, and a human being I am appalled by the violent reaction to the film. The movie is disgusting, offensive, and clearly intended for no other reason than to anger people, and it is unfortunate that there were some out there who took the bait.”
Gawker interviewed a female member of the cast, Cindy Le Garcia, who had a small role as a woman whose young daughter is given to Muhammad to marry. The script she was given was titled Desert Warriors.
She told the website: “It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago.
“It wasn’t based on anything to do with religion, it was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn’t anything about Muhammad or Muslims or anything.”
She said that the main character was called “Master George” not “Muhammad”.
“I had nothing to do really with anything,” she said. “Now we have people dead because of a movie I was in. It makes me sick.
“I’m going to sue their butt off.”
But mystery also surrounds the maker of the film, a man who told CNN his name was Sam Bacile, an American-Israeli Jew, living in southern California. He said the film had “100 Jewish backers”.
The Atlantic reported that “Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym.”
A vehicle sits smouldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi
Self-described “militant Christian” activist Steve Klein told the Atlantic: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved.
“His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.
“Nobody is anything but an active American citizen. They’re from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, they’re some that are from Egypt. Some are Copts but the vast majority are Evangelical.”
AP reported that it had identified a California Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, previously convicted of financial crimes, who acknowledged his role in managing and providing logistics for the production.
Nakoula denied it was he directed the film and said he knew “Sam Bacile”.
But the mobile phone number used originally to reach “Bacile” was traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula.
Nakoula denied he had posed as Bacile.
Morris Sadek, an Egypt-born Coptic Christian and head of the National American Coptic Assembly, told the Associated Press he had been promoting the film on his website, but denied he had made the film himself.
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of copies of the Quran in 2011 spurred riots across the Muslim world, also reportedly promoted the film.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the film “has nothing to do whatsoever with Israel”.
Spokesman Yigal Palmor said:
This guy is totally anonymous. At this point no-one can confirm he holds Israeli citizenship…He didn’t do it for us, in coordination with us or through any sort of channel connected to Israeli institutions. He’s a complete loose cannon, and an unspeakable idiot. The film is intolerable intolerance.”
CNN reported that US officials speaking on condition of anonymity said they believe the attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi was planned before the protests, with the YouTube film a convenient excuse.
“It was not an innocent mob,” one senior official said. “The video or 9/11 made a handy excuse and could be fortuitous from their perspective, but this was a clearly planned military-type attack.”
U.S. warns of rising threat of violence amid outrage over anti-Islam video
By CNN Wire Staff
September 14, 2012
After days of protests and related violence, concerns are growing that furor over an anti-Islam video could intensify even more Friday — threatening U.S. interests abroad and at home.
People have taken to the streets in 10 nations and the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir, according to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, railing against “Innocence of Muslims” and the nation where it was produced, the United States. This outrage, and danger to Americans, could worsen in the coming days, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FBI warned Thursday in a joint intelligence bulletin.
“The risk of violence could increase both at home and abroad as the film continues to gain attention,” the U.S. agencies said. “Additionally, we judge that violent extremist groups in the United States could exploit anger over the film to advance their recruitment efforts.”
Worries about Friday, in particular, stem from the fact Muslims hold weekly prayers that day — and may congregate afterward and march on U.S. diplomatic missions.
“We are in a full-court press at every single one of the posts in the Middle East and anywhere else there is any chance of demonstrations after Friday services to make sure nothing bad happens. And to have the security in place in case bad things do happen,” one senior U.S. official said.
The ongoing unrest centers on an obscure 14-minute film trailer that mocks Islam’s prophet.
Posted in July on YouTube, it got more notice recently after Egyptian television aired segments and anti-Islam activists promoted it online. Numerous questions surround the film, which includes cartoonish scenes of Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer.
According to a FBI/Homeland Security joint statement, the film’s producer identified himself to news media as an Israeli — an assertion Israel’s government denies — and falsely claimed the movie was financed with help from more than 100 Jewish donors.
While he’d been identified in July 2011 by various names, including Sam Bassiel, federal officials now say they believe the filmmaker’s name is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. He was convicted in 2009 of bank fraud, with the indictment from the U.S. Attorney’s Office listing seven aliases.
A production staffer said he believed the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian who also went by the name Abenob Nakoula Bassely.
On Tuesday, the same day people protesting the film stormed the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was attacked — leading to the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department computer expert Sean Smith, and security officers Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEAL commandos.
In addition to stressing there’s no excuse for violence targeting U.S. diplomatic missions, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the video “disgusting and reprehensible” and said it appears to aim “to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”
Still, condemnations of the film and calls by leaders of largely Muslim countries not to assault U.S. diplomatic missions haven’t stopped throngs from demonstrating, at times violently.
Protests rage against inflammatory anti-Islam film trailer
Small and large demonstrations have occurred in recent days all around North Africa and the Middle East. While some protesters say they have not seen any of the online film, they were incensed by reports of its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Many of them directed their anger, too, at the U.S. government and its Israeli allies. In Cairo, for instance, a photo showed a man standing over chalk-writing, in Arabic, that read, “Remember your black day 11 September.”
Here are details about various protests:
— In Yemen, demonstrators breached a security wall at the U.S. Embassy as several thousand people protested outside. Four protesters died during clashes with security forces outside the embassy, according to Yemeni security officials.
Twenty-four security force members were reported injured, as were 11 protesters, according to Yemen’s Defense Ministry, security officials and eyewitnesses.
— In Egypt, site of one of the largest, longest-lasting protests, at least 13 civilians and six police officers were injured Thursday, according to Egyptian government officials. Throngs continued to pack the area in front of the Cairo embassy on Friday morning, as a large fire burned and security guarded the area.
The instability in Egypt is a primary concern to U.S. President Barack Obama, who warned in an interview with Telemundo that it would be “a real big problem” if Egypt’s leaders fail to protect American interests there.
— In Tunisia and Morocco, protesters massed in front of U.S. embassies.
— In Gaza City, Palestinians demonstrated outside U.N. headquarters, and about 200 Palestinians protested the film at the Palestine Legislative Council building. In one instance, Palestinian men burned a U.S. flag.
— In Tel Aviv, Israel, about 50 people demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy.
— Iranians protested near the Swiss Embassy in Tehran on Thursday. Switzerland represents U.S. interests in Iran, since Washington and Tehran do not have diplomatic relations. Up to 500 people chanted “Death to America!” and called for death to the director of the movie.
The Islamic Propagation Coordination Council, meanwhile, has issued a statement calling for rallies across Iran on Friday “to protest Zionist-U.S. plots against Muslim and Islamic values,” the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
— In Iraq, specifically in the predominantly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad known as Sadr City, hundreds of protesters hit the streets to protest the film. They chanted, “America is the enemy of the people,” with some burning an American flag. Other followers of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also protested in the provinces of Najaf and Karbala.
So far, the violence has not spread to Afghanistan, where there is a high potential for outrage to erupt into destabilizing chaos. Obama and his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, have expressed their commitment to prevent that from happening.
The Afghan government has ordered an indefinite block of YouTube to prevent people there from watching the clips and staging violent protests. YouTube has already restricted access to the video.
Attention in the United States turns to filmmaker
U.S. officials have stepped up their criticism of the film at the center of the protests, which was privately produced in the United States.
The FBI has spoken to the elusive man behind the film within the past 24 hours, a federal law enforcement officer told CNN on Thursday. Feinstein, head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said she believes “an investigation is going on in this country considering the individual who did this very obnoxious … preview to some very stupid, … wrong-headed movie.”
Many Muslims find any depiction of Mohammed to be offensive. A Danish newspaper’s publication in 2005 of Mohammed caricatures triggered riots — and derogatory depictions of the prophet are considered by some to be worse.
The production staffer on the movie said the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian who had gone to Alexandria, Egypt, where the Coptic church is based, to raise money for the film. Far from standing behind the film, the Coptic church has issued a statement calling it “abusive” and part of a “malicious campaign to divide people.”
Quest for “justice” after U.S. ambassador’s killing
Sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say Tuesday night’s deadly attack was most likely carried out by a pro-al Qaeda group. Obama has vowed “justice will be done.”
U.S. warships, carrying guided missiles, are on their way to the coast of Libya, and unmanned drones are being sent to help search for the killers. And a group of Marines called a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team has been deployed to Libya to help secure U.S. facilities, two U.S. officials said. About 50 Marines arrived in the country Wednesday, officials said.
Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur said he is heading a high-level commission that includes heads of the North African nation’s foreign, defense and interior ministries to investigate the attack.
“Our friends … have supported us throughout these difficult times,” he said about the U.S. government. “We are very determined to bring things back to order.”
Abushagur said at least one Libyan was arrested Thursday morning in connection to the attack, with authorities actively pursuing “three or four” more after examining video from the scene and talking with witnesses.
The prime minister offered details on the case Thursday shortly after Libyan Deputy Interior Minister Wanis al-Sharif said “some individuals” suspected in the case were in custody, according to state-run LANA news agency.
By Maggie Michael, Associated Press
September 15, 2012
CAIRO –Christians gathered Friday in front of a Cairo cathedral holding signs denouncing a film that mocked the Prophet Muhammad amid fears that Muslims will take out their anger on Egypt’s minority community.
The country’s 8 million Coptic Christians were already feeling increasingly cornered amid the rise to power of hard-line Islamists in Egypt following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Now U.S. authorities have identified a self-described Coptic Christian living in California as the key figure behind the inflammatory film, and the community at home fears it will bear the brunt of the blame.
“We are afraid the anger will engulf us,” said Monier Hanna, a 58-year-old Coptic government employee who says he saw two unveiled Christian women being harassed over the movie by Muslim men in his middle-class district of Helwan on Thursday.
“They were telling the women they are responsible for the film,” he said.
Mira Girgis, a 23-year-old Copt and recent college graduate, said she feels insecure.
“I can’t go to church alone; my brother must be with me. I can’t go out at night. When I return from work, a male — either my father or brother — must be waiting for me at the subway station,” she said. “Being a Christian … is hard in Egypt in these conditions.”
A Christian journalist, Caroline Kamel, wrote in the Shorouk daily Friday that she and her family came under attack at a bus terminal in Cairo and another city over the film. “Am I supposed to … apologize for stupidities of others just for the mere fact that we share the same religion?” she said.
In another sign of trouble, a young Coptic Christian blogger, Alber Sabry, reportedly posted a clip of the movie on his Facebook page, prompting threats Friday from his neighbors in the middle-class district of Marg, who vowed to set his house on fire, a security official said.
The neighbors notified police, who arrested the blogger and detained him for 15 days pending investigation, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The 14-minute clip of “Innocence of Muslims,” which denigrates Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a womanizer, a fraud and a child molester, has unleashed protests across the Muslim world and attacks on U.S. and other Western embassies, including one in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Egypt’s Islamist politicians have lashed out at Coptic Christians living abroad but say they won’t let the film cause sectarian hatred at home. But that has not eased fears among Egypt’s Copts that anger over the film will spill over into broader anti-Christian sentiment.
On Tuesday, as the first anti-American protest was surging in front of the fortified U.S. Embassy in Cairo, mainly by hard-line Islamists, an extremist cleric, Abu Islam, drove up and announced over a loudspeaker that he had set fire to a Bible.
The Coptic Christian Church has issued a statement denouncing the film and rejecting “defamation” of the Muslim faith, and church officials have pledged that Christians will join their “brotherly Muslims” in sit-ins against the movie.
“This is part of a wicked campaign against religions, aimed at causing discord among people, especially Egyptians,” read the statement, issued Wednesday by the Sacred Congregation of the Coptic Church.
Once a majority in Egypt, Coptic Christians now make up about 10 percent of the country’s 85 million people. They are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and theirs is one of the region’s oldest churches. Like the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches, it has no theological links with the Roman Catholic or Anglican churches.
Under Mubarak, Christians also faced discrimination by the government, which did little to prevent attacks by Muslims. Many Christians fled to the United States and other Western countries, and tensions have risen as the collapse of the police state gave way to a state of lawlessness and the Islamists assumed power.
With Egypt’s first free elections in history giving victory to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi, fears have risen among Christians, many of whom supported his rival, a pro-Mubarak official, Ahmed Shafiq.
On Friday, a dozen young Coptic Christians lined up outside Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, denouncing the film and displaying signs that read “No to harming religions.” Christians also joined a sit-in against the movie at a mosque in Giza.
Some pointed to such demonstrations by Copts as a sign that they feel confident that anger over the film won’t be taken out on them.
“There is no doubt that Christians are fully confident that they will not be affected, as they are expressing solidarity with Muslims in their protests,” said Fouad Gergis, a member of the secular council of the Coptic Church.
However, Coptic activists counter that Christians in Egypt will feel the heat sooner or later.
“Christians are worried and I anticipate more waves of immigration to the West,” said Medhat Kelada, head of Copts United, a Swiss-based group that monitors reports of discrimination and other abuses against Christians in the Middle East.