Anti-"Innocence of Muslim" Protests Persist In Muslim World; Filmmaker "Sam Bacile" Now In Hiding

 @MayaErgas
on September 14 2012 11:54 AM
Protestors in Cairo
Protestors in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Sept. 11, 2012. The Egyptian economy took a sharp decline after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted; the unemployment rate hovers around 13 percent. Reuters

Day three of anti-"Innocence of Muslim" protests featured demonstrations and clashes with police flare up once again outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Over 200 people have been injured in the Egypt protests, but thus far no one has been reported killed. Other protests took place in Tahrir Square and around the American Embassy.

A 5,000-person-strong protest in Khartoum, Sudan against the British and German Embassies set the German embassy on fire on Friday, the AP and Reuters reported. Other clashes between protestors and police, as well as demonstrations outside U.S. Embassies have been reported in Iraq, Jordan, Kashmir, Lebanon, and in Iran outside the Swiss Embassy (which represents US interests).

The US Embassy in Tunisia has also been stormed, according to AP.

So far at least 18 people have died in similar protests in Yemen and Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three of his colleagues. Given the ferocity and apparent "professional execution" of the attacks in Benghazi, U.S. and Libyan officials have said they suspect those attacks were planned to coincide with the anniversary of September 11th, and the film was used as a cover, Reuters Africa reported. The UK outlet The Independent reported that the Embassy even had prior warning of the attack, but "did nothing." Libya later said they had "made several arrests in connection with the attack," the BBC reported.

The protests arose over a 14-minute trailer posted on July 2nd on YouTube for a film called the "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts the Prophet Mohammed and his followers in a negative light. One aggrieved protestor told the BBC: "The film isn't the first insult, there have been so many. There should be an international law to stop insults to Islam."

The cast and crew of "Innocence of Muslims," speaking to Gawker and CNN, said they had been duped: while filming, they said the film was called "Desert Warriors," and contained no references to Muslims or Mohammed. The offensive statements were dubbed over the original spoken dialogue, and later dubbed into Arabic.

The identity of the filmmaker, who at first went by "Sam Bacile," has been called into question. The Atlantic first postulated that Sam Bacile might not be who everyone said he was ­-- an Israeli filmmaker. The Wall Street Journal and the AP spoke with "Bacile," who defended his work and claimed that the film cost $5 million, and was backed by more than 100 Jewish donors, despite the low production quality.

"Bacile" was later identified by law enforcement officials as a Los Angeles-dwelling Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who has since gone into hiding.

Leaders in the affected countries have been appealing to their citizens for peace, and apologizing to U.S. leaders for the violence. The Libyan Ambassador to the U.S., Ali Suleiman Aujali, told CNN, "I feel shamed at what happened." Newly-elected Libyan Prime Minister, speaking to the BBC, said "Innocence of Muslims" was "for sure" offensive, but that the video didn't justify the "violence actions against Americans or American embassies."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the violence in Libya, and condemned the "hateful film."

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, speaking at a press conference, told reporters, "These kinds of acts jeopardize relationships between people in the world. We are not, in any way, we are not accepting those acts. We are against those acts."

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at a campaign rally on Friday, said that "No act of terror will go unpunished ... no act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."

In response to Morsi's comments, Obama told Telemundo's Jose Diaz Balart, "I don't think we [the U.S.] could consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy." The White House later clarified that this statement did not signal a change in the U.S.-Egypt relationship, Foreign Policy Magazine wrote.

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