Anger toward Islam binds players behind film

Anger toward Islam binds players behind film

By Michael R. Blood

Associated Press

DUARTE, Calif. — The shared belief that radical Islam threatens the world brought together an ex­convict, an insurance salesman and a Christian charity in production of a crudely crafted film that ridicules Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad and has incited violent pro­tests across the Middle East. Media for Christ, a nonprofit that raised more than $1 million last year “to glow Jesus’ light” to the world, was listed as the production company for the film. Steve Klein, a California insurance salesman and Vietnam War veteran who has spent years protesting at mosques and espousing hatred of radical Mus­lims, acted as the film’s promoter. Federal authorities have identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the key figure behind the film. A federal law en­forcement official on Thursday said that au­thorities had identified Nakoula as the man using the pseudonym Sam Ba­cile, who claimed earlier to be the writer and direc­tor of the film. Nakoula, who says he managed lo­gistics for the film, has been convicted of bank fraud and uses multiple names, authorities say.

Most of “Innocence of Muslims” was shot in about two weeks inside a warehouse that serves as the offices of Media for Christ, according to Eric Moers, who served as chief electrician for the production.

Media for Christ

What prompted Media for Christ’s involvement isn’t known because the organizations’ leaders have not spoken publicly. And much about the film remains a mystery, nota­bly who financed it.

The clumsily produced film, which looks like a spoof, alternately por­trays Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Despite its poor production values, the film would have cost at least tens of thousands of dollars to make be­cause of the equipment used and the professional actors and stage hands who were hired.

Moers said the film took 15 to 16 days to shoot and 90percent of the work was done at the Media for Christ studios. He said one day was spent at a movie ranch in Santa Clarita, and one day was spent filming at the home of the man he knew as Ba­cile.

Most of the film was shot using special effects to simulate other loca­tions. The crew members were not given scripts, and Moers said there was no mention of the name “Muhammad” throughout the filming. Other actors have come forward to say references to Muhammad were dubbed after the film was shot and they had no idea the film would be so denigrating.

“I’d say this was the most unprofessional pro­fessional film I’ve worked on,” said Moers, who esti­mated the cost of produc­tion at $100,000. “I don’t think anyone took it seri­ously.”

He said he was paid with a check issued on the account of Abanob Basse­ley Nakoula, the 20-year­old son of the purported filmmaker.

Connection to hate groups

While Klein has grant­ed a steady stream of in­terviews and is unapolo­getic for the film, Nakoula has disappeared since talking to an Associated Press reporter Wednes­day in the driveway of his suburban Los Angeles home. And Media for Christ President Joseph N. Abdelmasih — a Coptic Christian originally from Egypt — has not spoken publicly.

Tax records for the charity do not identify any donors other than Abdelmasih, who loaned the organization at least $30,000. He did not re­spond to phone messages or an email sent to the charity. Kamal Rizk, list­ed as vice president on federal records, did not return several phone messages.

Abdelmasih has spo­ken out against radical Is­lam and participated in a protest against a mosque and Islamic cultural cen­ter near the World Trade Center site.

Klein has a long history of anti-Muslim activities. He founded Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. He also started Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which preaches against Mus­lims and publishes vol­umes of anti-Muslim propaganda that Klein distributes.

The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled two of the organizations Klein is affiliated with as hate groups.

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