Extremist Christians Produce Anti-Muslim Film Blame Jews - updated 9/14

Sheila Musaji

Posted Sep 14, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Extremist Christians Produce Anti-Muslim Film Blame Jews

by Sheila Musaji

Yesterday I posted two articles The Tragic Consequences of Extremism which gives a detailed background on the attacks on the U.S. Embassies in Egypt and Libya, and on the tragic murder of the U.S. Ambassador and three Embassy staff in Libya, and the film that sparked these events. That article will be regularly updated as events unfold.  And, Muslims and Muslim Organizations Condemn Attacks on U.S. Embassies which lists some of the many of the statements that have been made condemning the violence.  This will also be updated.

Based on all of the reports that have come out in the last few days, here is a summary of what we now know about the film and its producers. (see The Tragic Consequences of Extremism for details, references, links to sources, etc.)
The film called “Innocence of Muslims” (after having been called “Desert Warrior” and “Innocence of bin Laden”) was originally identified by AP as produced by Sam Basile.  AP interviewed him by telephone.  The person identifying himself as Sam Basile claimed to be an Israeli American and Jewish,and to have raised $5 million from 100 Jewish donors to make the film.  He said that the trailer of the film available on YouTube was part of a 2-hour film.  He said that he made the film “to help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world”,  and he called Islam “a cancer”.  After the terrible events in Egypt and Libya, and after the story about the film became a news item internationally, he was reported to have gone into hiding in fear for his life.

It appears that Sam Basile was invented to cover the activities of at least four individuals - Steve Klein, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, Morris Sadek, and Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih.  Klein is an extremist Evangelical, and Nakoula, Nasrallah, and Sadek are extremist Copts.  So, extremists Christian Islamophobes engaged in an elaborate subterfuge, creating a non-existent Sam Basile and providing Basile with a biography that falsely represented him as an Israeli Jew whose film was financed by 100 other Jews to help Israel against the “cancer of Islam.”  The film was produced by Media for Christ at the Blue Cloud studios in California. 

The problem is that they made a hateful anti-Muslim film designed to provoke a response, promoted it in English and Arabic, and then engaged in a hateful scheme to blame their handiwork on Jews.  Egyptian political extremists used the film to stir up the masses to promote their political agenda.  The extremist political organization Al Qaeda used the film as a pretext for their terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya, as well as using the film as further “proof” of their propaganda effort to say that the U.S. is at war with all Muslims to gain support for their cause. 

The identity of Sam Basile is clearly Klein/Nakoula/Sadek/Nasrallah*

There may be others involved, but it will probably take time to identify all of those who engaged in what can only be called an anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and in the end anti-American conspiracy. Here is what we now know about these men:

Steve Klein, an extremist Evangelical,  first told the AP that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew, and that he was only a consultant on the film. He now says that Sam Basile is a pseudonym as part of a disinformation campaign for an individual whose name he does not know and who is not an Israeli or Jewish and that he had only met him once.  He says Basile initially contacted him.  Klein says that the film “was designed to stop the Muslim population in America reaching 10 per cent as they would then ‘work together and attack their host country’. Our intent is to show people what America could look like in 50 to 75 years time. The truth is that Muslims are a violent people and they are taking the living with them over a cliff.’”  Klein now claims that “the film was paid for by ‘Middle Easterners, Jewish people, Christians and a lot of former Muslims’”. Some money came from Britain, Scotland, France, Germany and Holland,’ he said.  Klein said that through a group that he had founded, called Middle Eastern Experts’ Team (MEET) “and his contacts with the Coptic community he has been asked to give his insights to the FBI and the U.S. Marine Corps.”  Klein produces a television show called “Wake Up America” on The Way TV, which shares the same Duarte address as Media for Christ headed by Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih.  Klein posts regularly on Pamela Geller’s Atlas Shrugs, In July 2011, Robert Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized alongside the anti-Muslim Coptic extremist Joseph Nasrallah to demand the firing of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, whom they painted as a dupe for Hamas.  He is a board member and founder of a group called Courageous Christians United, which promotes anti-Mormon, anti-Catholic and anti-Muslim literature (including the work of Robert Spencer) on its website.  He is affiliated with the Church at Kaweah which has been profiled by the SPLC including reference to Klein’s long record of activism against Muslims.  Klein was involved in the protests against the Temecula mosque.  Klein appears to be allied with the National American Coptic Assembly, a radical Islamophobic group headed by Morris Sadik.  Klein says that he “inspired Basile” to make the film and said after the attacks in Libya “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”  SOURCES: - ** - ** - ** - **  -  **  - ** - **

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is an American Egyptian Copt.  His cell phone traces to the same address as the cell phone number used by the mysterious Sam Basile.  Nakoula claims that he was manager for the company that produced the video, and provided logistics for the film, but that he was not the producer.  Nakoula admits a role in the production of the film, and says that “it was intended as a provocative statement”. He denies being Basile, but says that he knows Sam Basile who is the filmmaker. Nakoula has convictions for drug possession and fraud, and is an ex-convict on probation.  He faces possible arrest for breaching the conditions of his parole (using the internet, computers, or email without approval of a probation officer for five years).  He is now being identified as the producer of the film.  SOURCES: - ** - ** - ** - ** - ** - ** - ** - **

Morris Sadek is an American Egyptian Copt.  Sadek was the source of the telephone number supposedly belonging to Sam Basile that was given to AP, and which they called for their interview.  Sadek was also the one who posted Arabic articles online drawing attention to the film, sent a link to the film after it had been dubbed in Arabic to Egyptian journalists and television stations on September 6, 2012 , and promoted the film heavily on his website and in social media. Coptic Solidarity organization officials have condemned Sadek’s anti-Muslim activities.  Sadek was banned from entering Egypt and had his citizenship revoked in May 2011 because he called for war against the country.  Sadek also has links to Terry Jones who also promoted the film.  Sadek is a supporter of Brigitte Gabriel’s (an extremist Maronite Christian) ACT! for America.  Photo of Sadek with Brigitte Gabriel at one of the group’s 2010 events.  SOURCES: - ** - **** - ** - **

Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih, an Egyptian American Coptic Christian, is the head of Media for Christ who produced the film.  He spoke at Pamela Geller & Robert Spencer’s hate group SIOA’s anti-mosque rally in 2010 (also attended by Morris Sadek) and at their Freedom Rally in 2011.  In June 2012, Geller and Spencer held what they variously called AFDI/SIOA Historic Human Rights Townhall or AFDI/SIOA “Summer Night for Human Rights”, and which I called an anti-Muslim hate fest.  Joseph Nasrallah and Eric Allen Bell attended this function which included many former Muslim speakers.  In her articles, Geller includes a photo of herself and Nasrallah, and a photo of Eric Allen Bell sitting in the audience.  He participated with Steve Klein and Gary Cass in an anti-Muslim student outreach effort titled 911 Defend Our Students.  Geller said about Nasralla: Joseph Nasralla spoke at our 911 Ground Zero mosque rallies. He is a champion of human rights.  SOURCES:  - **** - ** - ** - **

MEDIA FOR CHRIST -  A non-profit non-denominational Evangelical Christian organization. Obtained the permit to film “Innocence of Muslims”.  It’s founder is Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih.  Their website is currently offline.  Their income from 65,000 dollars in 2007 to over one million dollars in 2011 according to 990 tax forms.  The other officers of Media for Christ are Kamal Rizk and Rania Mossad.  Media for Christ includes a production house for “The Way,” a Christian satellite television program in English and Arabic launched in 2010 which produces a show hosted by Steve Klein called “Wake Up America.”.  NOTE:  Media for Christ website is NOT mediaforchrist.org  SOURCES:  - ** - ** - ** - ** - **

Update:  FOLLOW THE MONEY,  Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax are available on the National Center for Charitable Statistics site in PDF format.  Here is what I found for Media for Christ/ The Way TV:

2005 - Shows no income, only 8,719 in money contributed personally to to set up the organization and 15,543 in expenses leaving a shortage of -6,824 for the year
2006 - income 64,164 - salaries 0 - other expenses 63,811 - loss of -6,471 for the year
2007 - income 65,861 - salaries 0 - other expenses 61,963 - loss of -2,573 for the year
2008 - income 46,248 - salaries 0 - other expenses 47,127 - loss of -879 for the year
2009 - 195,396 income - 24,263 salaries - other expenses 170,186 - loss of -22,485 for the year
2010 - $633,516 income - 138,638 salaries - 499,649 other expenses - loss of -11,863 for the year
2011 - $1,016 income -  $165,785 in salaries - 826,451 other expenses - ahead +23,551 for the year

Clearly something major happened in 2010.  Suddenly, income increased dramatically, and salaries went from 24,000 to 138,000 a year.  Then in 2011, there was another dramatic jump.  Income increased dramatically again, ans did salaries and expenses.  What happened?

Alan Roberts may or may not be a pseudonym. But focus has shifted to Roberts after Nakoula — presumably the same person as Sam Bacile — refused to admit he was the director. Gawker interviewed Eric Moers, hired as a grip and electrician for the Desert Warrior film, who laid out the on-set politics: “Alan was working under Sam, sort of,” he said. “But Alan was directing the movie, there was no question about it.” Both Moers and Dax described the film’s director as a 50ish white male, and a search of IMDB yields one Alan Roberts fitting the billing. According to the site, Roberts has directed nine films, most recently the 1994 B-movie Save Me. VICE has traced the Alan Roberts name to a man named Robert Brownell, whom they say purchased pre-production services related to the Desert Warrior film in 2009 and 2011. According to their records, Robert Brownell also goes by the name Robert Alan Brown, which contains unmistakable similarities to the Alan Roberts identity.  But the biggest problem to Moers wasn’t the director’s name, it was his skill: “He was a directorial hack, he didn’t know basic things,” Moer said.  His previous films were primarily soft pornography.  SOURCES: - ** - **

Other names have been raised in connection with the film, but at this point little is known, including whether or not some names are also pseudonyms.  Those names are Alan Roberts (listed as the Director in some documents), Robert Brownell, Robert Alan Brown.  And, of course, Terry Jones.

These individuals have connections with each other and with members of the Islamophobia industry.  The Islamophobia Industry exists and is engaged in an anti-Muslim Crusade.  They have a manifesto for spreading their propaganda. They produce anti-Muslim films.  They are forming new organizations and coalitions of organizations at a dizzying speed, not only nationally, but also internationally.   They have formed an International Leadership Team “which will function as a mobile, proactive, reactive on-the-ground team developing and executing confidential action plans that strike at the heart of the global anti-freedom agenda.”

The Islamophobia of these folks is very real, it is also strikingly similar to a previous generations’ anti-Semitism, and it has predictable consequences.
As Prof. Juan Cole has noted

The group behind the film, in other words, managed to evoke all the classic themes of anti-Semitism as a way of disguising the Coptic and evangelical network out of which the ‘film’ came.  When they weren’t busy picketing Mormons and defaming Muslims they were trying to get Jews killed for their own smears of Islam!

Of course, given the strident hatred of Muslims promoted by a handful of Jewish American extremists such as Pamela Geller, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes and others, in which they gleefully join with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, it was only a matter of time before their partners in hate turned on them and used them.

I also noted the danger of Jews alligning themselves with Islamophobes and how likely it was that this tactic would backfire,  in the article Pamela Geller May Regret Stirring Up a Hornet’s Nest of Bigotry in which I said

...  Pamela Geller’s Islamophobia is clouding her judgement about how closely anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and all other forms of bigotry are linked.  Encouraging and condoning bigotry towards any minority ultimately can come to hurt all minorities.  Her ravings against Islam and Muslims are appealing to a certain segment of the population who need to have someone to blame and to look down on.  It is if she is taking a stick and sticking it into a hive of hornets and shaking it around and hoping she can control who those hornets sting

When she opposes halal slaughter of animals and calls it “cruel”, it isn’t going to be long before her audience notices kosher slaughter.  When she opposes not only particular interpretations of some specific aspects of Sharia, but all of Sharia, it isn’t going to be long before her audience sees the similarities between Halakha and Sharia.  If it’s alright to take away Constitutional protections from Muslims, or any other particular minority, then it isn’t going to be long before her audience realizes they can take them away from others who they were never that fond of in the first place. ...

All of the media outlets who published the initial information describing Basile as an Israeli Jew with 100 Jewish donors financing the film should have done more checking. 

The tragic violence continues to play out.  This morning, Betsy Hiel, a Cairo-based correspondent for The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, published pictures of the US Embassy in Cairo, which she reports were defaced with graffiti praising Osama Bin Laden and threatening Jews.  Protests have continued today in Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Iraq, Gaza, and in Yemen where at least one protester was killed and four others were wounded when police tried to control a crowd storming the American embassy.

Innocent Jewish people around the world have been put in danger.  Innocent Muslims have been put in danger.  Innocent Coptic Christians in Egypt have been put in danger.  Americans abroad have been put in danger.  Relationships between governments have been strained.  Relationships between religious communities have been strained.  Al Qaeda has been handed a propaganda coup.

There has been violence and destruction and human beings have died because of events set in motion by the conspiracy set in motion by these individuals.  One of the Key players in this, Klein said “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen.”  This means that they knew that such provocation would lead to violence, and yet they went ahead with this plan. 

If the goal or intention of these individuals was to inflame Muslims with the hateful film, provoke a response, incite anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, engender hatred, stir up animosity between Jews and Muslims, and between Muslims and Coptic Christians, destabilize the Egyptian government, further tarnish the image of the U.S. in the Muslim world, and stir up more bigotry and suspicion between American Muslims and their fellow citizens, then they have succeeded.  If their goal was to raise the issue of the injustices against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt, then they have failed miserably.  Just last month, there was a joint U.S. Muslim & Christian Statement Regarding Egyptian Minorities, and MPAC and ISNA are working on projects to protect the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries.  Those are the sorts of efforts that may help heal divisions.

It seems to me that terms like conspiracy, hate crime, incitement to violence, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, psychological terrorism, and traitors, all apply here.  If these individuals have not crossed a legal line, they have certainly crossed moral, and ethical lines.  American Muslims, including myself have stood strongly for the freedom of speech.  The Defense of free speech by American and Canadian Muslims statement to which I was a signatory makes that point clear.  However, there is a point at which protected speech crosses the line between free speech and hate speech, and I believe that these individuals have crossed that line.

The only figure that I know of in the Torah, the New Testament, or the Qur’an, who would be honored by the actions of any of these extremists is Satan. 

These religious and political extremists use religion as a cover to attempt to justify actions that can only be called evil.  They want to provoke a reaction, as it feeds into their narratives, or they believe they can use the suffering of others to aid their own political cause.  All of the extremists have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of decent people of their faith.  Their actions bring disgrace on other members of the faiths they claim, and they bring nothing but more hatred, chaos, and suffering to the rest of the world.  The extremists who made this film do not represent Coptic Christians, or Christians.  The political extremists like Al Qaeda do not represent Islam. 

Abbas Barzegar has written an important article on the free speech vs. hate speech aspect of this crisis in which he says

,,,  We have been here before. The late Ayatollah Khomeini’s notorious edict against Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in 1989, The Danish Cartoon controversy in 2005, and Pastor Terry Jones’s Qur’an burning stunt in 2010. Anyone who has a inkling of familiarity with the Muslim world knows that sacrilege and blasphemy are not understood as acts of free speech, political expression, or artistic creativity. No, they are bright red lines that promise public panic and guarantee violence. Couple that reality with two centuries of colonial and neo-imperial European domination of the greater Middle East and you have the perfect storm for an international communications disaster. So, as history repeats itself, the only thing ludicrous is the incessant stubbornness of both the West’s commitment to “free speech” and the Muslim world’s rush to violence, the irony of which is lost upon them both.

...  But one look at Sam Bacile’s film will demonstrate that its vitriolic message elevates it to the status of a hate crime.  The movie depicts Muhammad as sexually licentious, insane, and fanatically violent. It draws upon (in the most uncreative ways) a long line of anti-Muslim stereotypes that date to the crusades. In short these stereotypes are to Islamophobia what blood libel is anti-Semitism.

What is farcical is not only that Muslims who murder in the name of Islam reinforce the very stereotypes that caused their outrage but also that western democratic societies which continue to protect what amounts to hate speech reinforce their own stereotypes in the Muslim world as Godless moral relativists. Even more ironic however is that the chorus of condemnation on all sides will be loudly sounded, yet there will be no mechanism of force or law to stop this deadly child’s play of provocation and retaliation.

Consider this: how is it possible that not the FBI nor Secretary of Defense Robert Gates could stop Pastor Terry Jones from putting the Quran on Trial and burning it when it was well known that the act would cause violence around the world and harm the security of the US personnel abroad? Likewise, how is possible that despite the most elaborate condemnations from Muslim religious authorities around the world that they could not stop a mob of thugs from storming the consulate in Benghazi and murdering the ambassador that helped them overthrow Qaddafi?

Another layer of irony, still, will be our own melancholy reactions. As more protests unfold in the coming days and more violence abounds, the average global citizen will simply shake their heads, dumbfounded, and make hollow appeals for calm and reason. What we have yet to understand is that whether it takes the shape of Muhammad or the concept of Free Speech, the sacred remains untouchable. Until we find a system of law that limits the abuse of our sacred symbols, we can count on Marx’s promise that our coming days will be filled with nothing but farce.

The Coptic Orthodox Church, Diocese of Los Angeles issued a statement

We strongly condemn the brutal murder of the United States ambassador to Libya and three of the embassy employees. In order for peace to reign throughout the world, brutality and hatred must be swiftly condemned and punished.

Hope must be brought to desperate places, kindness and mercy must be given a chance. However, hope will not thrive in the midst of hatred and violence. Therefore, those who are responsible for this brutal act must be brought to justice in order to give hope a chance.

We keep the families of the ambassador and murdered staff in our prayers as well as offering the families our heart felt condolences.

Furthermore, the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California & Hawaii strongly rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the Diaspora in the latest production of an inflammatory movie about the prophet of Islam. The producers of this movie should be responsible for their actions. The name of our blessed parishioners should not be associated with the efforts of individuals who have ulterior motives.

Copts across the Diaspora never participated in any humiliation or violence against those who often persecute Christians. It is not the Christian way to respond to hatred with hate. Christianity prohibits a Christian from such acts. If burning the Holy Bible is wrong, then burning any book revered or respected by others is equally wrong. Holistically blaming the Copts for the production of this movie is equivalent to holistically blaming Muslims for the actions of a few fanatics. Even though Christians often face persecution, injustice and calls for open attacks over the airwaves, we reject violence in all its forms.  We call on everyone from all religions to respect the freedom of individuals to choose their faith.


“Innocence of Muslims”: Film and International Crisis (TAM article collection)  http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/article-collection/0019361 for an extensive collection of articles on this crisis