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An anti-Islamic video titled Innocence of Muslims has been at the root of recent protests riots, and attacks in Egypt, Libya and other Arab and Muslim nations since early September. The short video, which is apparently a trailer for a two hour film, was reportedly made by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, AKA Sam Bacile, an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian living in California.
The video was first posted on YouTube in July this year, but the anger surrounding it didn’t spill over into violence until earlier this month. Demonstrations linked with the film have taken place in multiple countries, including India, Pakistan and Libya. In India, the US Consulate was pelted with stones. In Pakistan, despite a ban on rallies, over 10,000 people protested against the film in Lahore, and one Pakistani died from smoke inhalation due the burning of American flags.
In Libya, according to US and Libyan officials, an armed attack on the US Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi resulted in the deaths of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, although this may have been a pre-planned attack which was not linked to the video.
Many Muslims believe that any sort of drawing or depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is inherently blasphemous. Not only does Innocence of Muslims depict the Prophet, but it also denigrates him in the eyes of Muslims, portraying him as ‘a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extra-marital sex, for himself, in the name of religion’, in the words of Matt Bradley and Dion Nissenbaum at the Wall Street Journal. The film also portrays Egyptian Muslim characters as ‘immoral and violent, particularly toward the Christians whom they pursue with near-genocidal fervour’.
Cindy Lee Garcia, an American actress who took part in the making of the video, has claimed that the script she saw mentioned neither Muslims nor Muhammad, and that the film was later altered using voice-overs, which does appear to be the case.
The fact that no evidence of the film actually having been made has been discovered, apart from the 14 minute ‘trailer’ has led some to question whether it exists at all. The short excerpt seems at the moment to be the only piece of Innocence of Muslims that has been, or ever will be, shot – and it appears to have been made for no other purpose than to insult and offend, and to incite hatred and violence. Perhaps if this video hadn’t gone viral, it would have remained simply the ridiculed handiwork of one or two lone crackpots.