Top Menu

Inside the strange Hollywood scam that spread chaos across the Middle East

The Guardian has confirmed that the filmmakers are closely affiliated with Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller. (h/t: Jai)

Inside the strange Hollywood scam that spread chaos across the Middle East

by Max Blumenthal (The Guardian)

Did an inflammatory anti-Muslim film trailer that appeared spontaneously on YouTube prompt the attack that left four US diplomats dead, including US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens? American officials have suggested that the assault was pre-planned, allegedly by of one of the Jihadist groups that emerged since the Nato-led overthrow of Libya’s Gaddafi regime. So even though the deadly scene in Benghazi may not have resulted directly from the angry reaction to the Islamophobic video, the violence has helped realize the apocalyptic visions of the film’s backers.

Produced and promoted by a strange collection of rightwing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Copts, the trailer was created with the intention of both destabilizing post-Mubarak Egypt and roiling the US presidential election. As a consultant for the film named Steve Klein said: “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”

The Associated Press’s initial report on the trailer – an amateurish, practically unwatchable production called The Innocence of Muslims – identified a mysterious character, “Sam Bacile”, as its producer. Bacile told the Associated Press that he was a Jewish Israeli real estate developer living in California. He said that he raised $5m for the production of the film from “100 Jewish donors”, an unusual claim echoing Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style fantasies. Unfortunately, the extensive history of Israeli and ultra-Zionist funding and promotion of Islamophobic propaganda in the United States provided Bacile’s remarkable statement with the ring of truth.

Who was Bacile? The Israeli government could not confirm his citizenship, and for a full day, no journalist was able to determine whether he existed or not. After being duped by Bacile, AP traced his address to the home of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a militant Coptic separatist and felon convicted of check fraud. On September 13, US law enforcement officials confirmed that “Sam Bacile” was an alias Nakoula used to advance his various scams, which apparently included the production of The Innocence of Muslims.

According to an actor in the film, the all-volunteer cast was deceived into believing they were acting in a benign biblical epic about “how things were 2,000 years ago”. The script was titled Desert Warrior, and its contents made no mention of Muhammad – his name was dubbed into the film during post-production. On the set, a gray-haired Egyptian man who identified himself only as “Sam” (Nakoula) chatted aimlessly in Arabic with a group of friends while posing as the director. A casting notice for Desert Warrior listed the film’s real director as “Alan Roberts”. This could likewise be a pseudonym, although there is a veteran Hollywood hand responsible for such masterpieces as The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood and The Sexpert who goes by the same name.

Before Nakoula was unmasked, the only person to publicly claim any role in the film was Klein, an insurance salesman and Vietnam veteran from Hemet, California, who emerged from the same Islamophobic movement that produced the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Styling themselves as “counter-Jihadists”, anti-Muslim crusaders like Klein took their cues from top propagandists like Pamela Geller, the blogger who once suggested that Barack Obama was the lovechild of Malcolm X, and Robert Spencer, a pseudo-academic expert on Muslim radicalization who claimed that Islam was no more than “a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers”. Both Geller and Spencer were labeled hate group leaders by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Klein is an enthusiastic commenter on Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugged, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s heartland”. In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized to demand the firing of Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca, whom he painted as a dupe for the Muslim Brotherhood.

On his personal Facebook page, Altar or Abolish, Klein obsesses over the Muslim Brotherhood, describing the organization as “a global network of Muslims attacking to convert the world’s 6 billion people to Islam or kill them”. Klein urges a violent response to the perceived threat of Islam in the United States, posting an image to his website depicting a middle-American family with a mock tank turret strapped to the roof of their car. “Can you direct us to the nearest mosque?” read a caption Klein added to the photo.

In 2011, during his campaign to oust Sheriff Baca, Klein forged an alliance with Joseph Nasrallah, an extremist Coptic broadcaster who shared his fear and resentment of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasrallah appeared from out of nowhere at a boisterous rally against the construction of an Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2010, warning a few hundred riled-up Tea Party types that Muslims “came and conquered our country the same way they want to conquer America”.

Organized by Geller and Spencer, the rally was carefully timed to coincide with the peak of the midterm congressional election campaign, in which many rightwing Republicans hoped to leverage rising anti-Muslim sentiment into resentment against the presidency of Obama.

Through his friendship with Nasrallah, Klein encountered another radical Coptic separatist named Morris Sadek. Sadek has been banned from returning to his Egypt, where he is widely hated for his outrageous anti-Muslim displays. On the day of the Ground Zero rally, for instance, Sadek was seen parading around the streets of Washington, DC, on September 11, 2010, with a crucifix in one hand and a Bible implanted with the American flag in the other. “Islam is evil!” he shouted. “Islam is a cult religion!”

With another US election approaching, and the Egyptian government suddenly under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, Klein and Sadek joined Nakoula in preparing what would be their greatest propaganda stunt to date: the Innocence of Muslims. As soon as the film appeared on YouTube, Sadek promoted it on his website, transforming the obscure clip into a viral source of outrage in the Middle East. And like clockwork, on September 11, crowds of Muslim protesters stormed the walls of the US embassy in Cairo, demanding retribution for the insult to the prophet Muhammad. The demonstrations ricocheted into Libya, where the deadly attack that may have been only peripherally related to the film occurred.

For Sadek, the chaos was an encouraging development. He and his allies had been steadfastly opposed to the Egyptian revolution, fearing that it would usher in the Muslim Brotherhood as the country’s new leaders. Now that their worst fears were realized, Coptic extremists and other pro-Mubarak dead-enders were resorting to subterfuge to undermine the ruling party, while pointing to the destabilizing impact of their efforts as proof of the government’s bankruptcy. As Sadek said,“the violence that [the film] caused in Egypt is further evidence of how violent the religion and people”.

For far-right Christian right activists like Klein, the attacks on American interests abroad seemed likely to advance their ambitions back in the US. With Americans confronted with shocking images of violent Muslims in Egypt and Libya on the evening news, their already negative attitudes toward their Muslim neighbors were likely to harden. In turn, the presidential candidates, Obama and Romney, would be forced to compete for who could take the hardest line against Islamic “terror”.

A patrician moderate constantly on the defensive against his own right flank, Romney fell for the bait, baselessly accusing Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks” and of issuing “an apology for America’s values”. The clumsy broadside backfired in dramatic fashion, opening Romney to strident criticism from across the spectrum, including from embarrassed Republican members of Congress. Obama wasted no time in authorizing a round of drone strikes on targets across Libya, which are likely to deepen regional hostility to the US.

A group of fringe extremists had proven that with a little bit of money and an unbelievably cynical scam, they could shape history to fit their apocalyptic vision. But in the end, they were not immune to the violence they incited.

According to Copts Today, an Arabic news outlet focusing on Coptic affairs, Sadek was seen taking a leisurely stroll down Washington’s M Street on September 11, soaking in the sun on a perfect autumn day. All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by four angry Coptic women. Berating Sadek for fueling the flames of sectarian violence, the women took off their heels and began beating him over the head.

“If anything happens to a Christian in Egypt,” one of them shouted at him, “you’ll be the reason!”

, , , , , , , ,

  • FYI

    Anti-Islam Film Producer Wrote Script in Prison: Authorities
    Unfortunately your browser does not support IFrames.

    Watch More News Videos at ABC
    |
    2012 Presidential Election
    |
    Entertainment & Celebrity News

    The controversial “Innocence of Muslims” was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody.

    Authorities say Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, California, admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film. Excerpts from the film led to outrage and violence in the Arab world.

    Authorities told ABC News that Nakoula told them he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie which, he reportedly said, cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days.

  • FYI

    Nakoula has a Wikpedia entry now.

    Jai,

    It looks like Nakoula wrote the script while he was in prison, and his wifes family in Egypt funded it. He is one of those Copt extremists who didn’t want Mobarak to fall. They fear an Islamic government,

    ———-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nakoula_Basseley_Nakoula
    Innocence of Muslims

    Nakoula originally identified himself to reporters as an Israeli-Jew, using the pseudonym Sam Bacile, and said that he collected $5 million from Jewish friends to fund the movie.[27] Although Nakoula later denied being the film’s director “Sam Bacile”, the Associated Press reported that the cellphone number Bacile used for an interview matched Nakoula’s address.[28][29][30] Among Nakoula’s aliases were names which sounded similar to Sam Bacile.[31] An anonymous federal law enforcement official identified Nakoula as the key filmmaker.[17][31] Police were sent to protect Nakoula after he was named a key figure, and a colleague stated Nakoula was scared of retaliation.[32]

    Some of the movie appears to have been filmed at Nakoula’s home.[33] According to authorities, Nakoula wrote the script while in prison.

    He said he produced it with his son, Abanob Basseley, and the money for it (between $50,000 to $60,000) came from his wife’s family in Egypt.[34]

    On September 15, federal authorities took Nakoula in for an interview about possible probation violations related to the film’s distribution on the Internet.[35][36]

    Police were sent to protect Nakoula after he was named a key figure, and a colleague stated Nakoula was scared of retaliation.[32] Some of the movie appears to have been filmed at Nakoula’s home.[33] According to authorities, Nakoula wrote the script while in prison. He said he produced it with his son, Abanob Basseley, and the money for it (between $50,000 to $60,000) came from his wife’s family in Egypt.[34] On September 15, federal authorities took Nakoula in for an interview about possible probation violations related to the film’s distribution on the Internet.[35][36]

  • FYI

    Jai,

    It has already been established that Joseph Nasrallah, and a Mr Sadek (Egyptian copt separatists, allied with Christian right groups) were pulling ‘Nakoula’s’ strings.

    They’ve been picturised at Pamela Geller’s and Robert Spencers 9/11 hate gatherings. Sadek spoke at a SION rally in New York with Pamela Geller.

  • Jai

    Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses tricked into participating in the anti-Mohammad film, is now suing the film’s suspected director Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

    Full details via BBC News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-19657880

    It should be interesting to see where the trail leads, in terms of exposing who was really pulling Nakoula’s strings.

  • FYI

    Joseph Nassralla President of Media for Christ group got the permit for movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’
    http://pibillwarner.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/joseph-nassralla-president-of-media-for-christ-group-got-the-permit-for-movie-innocence-of-muslims/

    The organization that received the film permit for a movie believed to be the controversial “Innocence of Muslims” was Duarte, Calif.-based nonprofit advocacy group Media for Christ. Karen Herrera, deputy city manager for the City of Duarte, told KPCC that Media for Christ received a permit last year for a movie called “Desert Warriors” through Film LA, an organization that gives film permits for the County of Los Angeles. Herrera said she was told that information from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department. People involved in the film believe “Desert Warriors” later became “Innocence of Muslims.”

    Joseph Nassralla is the president for Media for Christ, which identifies itself as a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual aid and humanitarian assistance. Nassralla has been introduced at speaking events as a Coptic Christian and human rights activist from Egypt.

    Permit confirmed: Paul Audley, president of Film LA, confirmed to KPCC on Friday that the permit was issued on Aug. 18, 2011. He referred further questions to the County of Los Angeles, which said it would not release the film permit due to safety concerns.

  • Jai

    As I mentioned earlier on this thread, “Ali Sina” was listed as one of the main individuals scheduled to speak at Pamela Geller’s anti-Muslim conference in New York last week (see: http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2012/08/september-11-2012-d-day-in-the-information-battle-space.html#comments).

    Geller has subsequently posted some video footage of the conference on her “Atlas Shrugs” website, along with cross-publishing a lengthy article from a Geller-sympathetic website detailing their version of events during the conference, the names of the numerous speakers involved, and multiple photographs of speakers and audience members: http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2012/09/video-xxxxxx-at-sion-international-freedom-of-speech-congress-september-11th.html

    “Ali Sina” is not mentioned even once. This either suggests that he pulled out of speaking at the conference, or that “Ali Sina” really isn’t an “Iranian ex-Muslim” at all but is actually one of the speakers named in the article Geller has cross-published.

  • Jai

    It’s worth highlighting the sections of the main Guardian article that refer directly to Robert Spencer & Pamela Geller:

    Extracts:

    Before Nakoula was unmasked, the only person to publicly claim any role in the film was Klein, an insurance salesman and Vietnam veteran from Hemet, California, who emerged from the same Islamophobic movement that produced the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Styling themselves as “counter-Jihadists”, anti-Muslim crusaders like Klein took their cues from top propagandists like Pamela Geller, the blogger who once suggested that Barack Obama was the lovechild of Malcolm X, and Robert Spencer, a pseudo-academic expert on Muslim radicalization who claimed that Islam was no more than “a developed doctrine and tradition of warfare against unbelievers”. Both Geller and Spencer were labeled hate group leaders by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Klein is an enthusiastic commenter on Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugs, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s heartland”. In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized to demand the firing of Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca, whom he painted as a dupe for the Muslim Brotherhood.

    …..In 2011, during his campaign to oust Sheriff Baca, Klein forged an alliance with Joseph Nasrallah, an extremist Coptic broadcaster who shared his fear and resentment of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nasrallah appeared from out of nowhere at a boisterous rally against the construction of an Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan on September 11, 2010, warning a few hundred riled-up Tea Party types that Muslims “came and conquered our country the same way they want to conquer America”.

    Organized by Geller and Spencer, the rally was carefully timed to coincide with the peak of the midterm congressional election campaign, in which many rightwing Republicans hoped to leverage rising anti-Muslim sentiment into resentment against the presidency of Obama.

  • Jai

    Loonwatch’s editorial team should seriously consider cross-publishing the Daily Kos article that Heinz Catsup flagged up (re: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/09/16/1132429/–Pamela-Geller-s-Blog-Solicited-Funds-For-anti-Muhammad-Movie).

    According to the Daily Kos, in February 2012 Pamela Geller and “Ali Sina”, one of her “SIOA” organisation’s most senior figures (“Ali Sina” was also scheduled to speak at Geller’s anti-Muslim conference in New York last week) solicited funds on Geller’s “Atlas Shrugs” website for an anti-Mohammad film that exactly matches the description of the film that has now triggered protests worldwide.

    As TexRangers correctly mentioned in his own comment here, it’s worth noting that Geller etc would still have needed money for the intended large-scale promotion & distribution of this film — which potentially explains the solicitation for funds in February even though the now-released anti-Mohammad film had already gone into production at that time.

  • Ilisha

    @Steve

    We agree. Stop meddling in other people’s affairs, which creates a tinder box.

    If the West stops meddling and poking, then there won’t be a need to focus on Muslims, or to insist they throw their religious sensibilities in the dustbin. You can’t turn the whole world into militant secularists, and you shouldn’t try.

  • Steve

    @Ilisha, I agree the west should leave muslim countries to their own devices, there should be no military or social intervention, no arms sales, no government aid projects etc.

    However if the gallery of modern art in glasgow decided to show a koran which people could write in and draw on do you think there would be trouble?

    Of course the gallery of modern art in glasgow wouldn’t dare to show such an exhibit.

  • IbnAbuTalib

    steve: No riots, no deaths, no looting, no heads of state apologising, no heads of state calling for blasphemy to be made ilegal.

    Yet in the middle ages, this would have been inconceivable, wouldn’t you agree? Now why is it that Christians in the past would violently react to such blasphemous acts but modern day Christians (in the West) would not? What accounts for the desensitization of modern Christians towards such blasphemy? You can’t say that Christianity is not for violence against blasphemers because if that were the case, we wouldn’t have had the Crusades, the inquisitions, the burning of witches, scientists, unitarians, etc. Were the Christians less religious back then than they are today? No.

    Please enlighten me Steve.

  • Ilisha

    @Steve

    And the context is completely different too.

    Why Are Muslims So Angry? Ask Donald Rumsfeld
    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/john-wight/why-are-muslims-so-angry-_b_1883574.html

  • Steve

    “A few years ago an artist dropped a crucifix into his urine and took a photo and called it “piss christ”. Did Christians riot, pillage and destroy? No.”

    In the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Scotland a state funded exhibition featured a copy of the bible and invited people to write in it and draw in it. Part of the exhibition also featured a video of a woman ripping pages out of the bible and stuffing the pages in her mouth and bra.

    No riots, no deaths, no looting, no heads of state apologising, no heads of state calling for blasphemy to be made ilegal.

  • Andrew

    If I want to make a film about Muhummad or draw cartoons of him. That is my business. If other people don’t like it that is their business. If they get violent then they are to blame and should be punished by the law.

    A few years ago an artist dropped a crucifix into his urine and took a photo and called it “piss christ”. Did Christians riot, pillage and destroy? No.

    Here in Australia, thankfully everyone is waking up to the threat we are facing after what happened last week. Pictures of little kids holding placards saying “behead those that insult the prophet” has shocked and disgusted the whole country.

  • TexRangers

    FOX News Correspondent Pamela Geller Involved With Anti-Islam Film She Played You All.

    http://pibillwarner.wordpress.com/2012/09/18/fox-news-correspondent-pamela-geller-involved-with-anti-islam-film-she-played-you-all-sucker/

    Pamela Geller’s Blog Solicited Funds For a anti-Muhammad Film in Feb 2012. WTH, the movie “Innocence of Muslims” would have been completed by Feb 2012 but lots of cash would be needed to promote and distribute the film in Islamic countries.

    LIVE LEAK: Yesterday, while compiling evidence for a report demonstrating conclusively that the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Media For Christ was the most significant force behind the production of the anti-Islamic trailer video “Innocence of the Muslims” which, after being posted on Youtube, has helped incite riots throughout the Islamic world, I came upon the following February 12, 2012 post, on the website of Atlas Shrugs — the blog of Pamela Geller, the anti-Islamic activist who cofounded the group Stop Islamization of Nations and helped incite and organize the nationally-notorious June 6, 2010protest against the building of a mosque in lower Manhattan one of the speakers at the protest was Joseph Nassralla,head of Media For Christ.

Powered by Loon Watchers