Protests have broken out across the Middle East in response to a low-budget film that mocks the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The protests originated in Libya, where the US consulate was stormed and set ablaze. The attack claimed the lives of 4 Americans: U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
The director used the alias Sam Bacile and claimed to be an Israeli-American real-estate developer. His real name is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and he’s actually a Coptic Christian, which are a persecuted minority in Egypt and could further inflame the situation.
The 14-minute trailer for Innocence of Islam opens with Muslims terrorizing Egyptian Christians. A man hurries home to explain what’s happening to his family. He takes out a whiteboard and writes: “Man + X = BT (Islamic terrorist).” He tells his daughter that it’s up to her, and presumably the viewer, to discover what is “X.” What follows is a series of skits that portray Muhammad as a bastard, pedophile, adulterer, and homosexual that created a religion to satisfy his vices. The actual aspersions are dubbed over the actors, who say they were unaware of the intent of the movie.
The Obama administrations has condemned the movie as well the violence it has incited.
The Cairo Embassy issued the following apology:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the following statement:
We absolutely reject its content and message. America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. And as you know, we are home to people of all religions. Many of whom came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion, including of course millions of Muslims. And we have the greatest respect for people of faith. To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage but as I said yesterday there is no justification, none at all for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the United States and around the world have spoken out on this issue. Violence we believe has no place in religion and is no way to honor religion. our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our constitution and our law. And we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter distasteful they may be. There are of course different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression but there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable. We all, whether we are leaders in government, leaders in civil society or religious leaders must draw the line at violence. And any responsible leader should be standing up and drawing that line.
Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney chided the administration:
However, Romney’s rush to judgment seems to have backfired. “Governor Romney seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later,” President Obama told CBS. “And as president, one of the things I’ve learned is you can’t do that. That, you know, it’s important for you to make sure that the statements that you make are backed up by the facts. And that you’ve thought through the ramifications before you make ’em.
I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions. It’s never to early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values. The White House distanced itself last night from the statement saying it wasn’t cleared by Washington. That reflects the mixed signals they’re sending to the world.
Reminiscent of the Muhammad cartoon controversy, the media is avoiding showing or linking to the video, which can be found on YouTube (embedded below).
“This video — which is widely available on the Web — is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube,” said the website. “However, given the very difficult situation in Libya and Egypt we have temporarily restricted access in both countries.”
It’s being promoted by the equally controversial Pastor Terry Jones, who threatened to burn the Koran in 2010 and made good on his threat in 2011 and 2012.
Jones defended the movie on his website Stand Up America:
We have been contacted by the producer of the film, ‘Innocence of Muslims’, to help distribute it.
The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known. The examination of his life, as we have done through International Judge Muhammad Day, through this type of close examination, it is very clear that God did not influence him in the writings of the Koran. The fruits of the religion speak for themselves. For example the recent outbreak of violence and deaths is not because of the film, it is not because of the activities that we have done and that we will continue to do. These types of violent activities must be totally rejected. These people must be held accountable. It again shows the true nature of Islam. Islam does not tolerate criticism of Muhammad, the Koran or Sharia. Because of their fear of criticism, knowing that if Islam and the Koran were closely examined, Muhammad and the Koran will be revealed for what it is, a lie and a deception.