Anti-Muslim film puts spotlight on US Copts
The anti-Islamic movie trailer inflaming the Middle East opens with Muslims ransacking a Christian medical clinic and then segues into a flashback of the Prophet Muhammad’s life. “Set the place on fire! We’ll burn out these forsaken Christians!” cries one Muslim character.
The opening scene from “Innocence of Muslims,” although crude, resonates with some Egyptian Christians, who have suffered years of persecution and attacks by Islamic extremists.
The 14-minute trailer on YouTube enraged Muslims worldwide with its depiction of Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud and child molester. Most Egyptian Christians in the U.S. have rejected the movie and say the man and the nonprofit tied to the film are fringe players who are not well-known in the Coptic Orthodox Church, the church for the vast majority of Coptic Christians in America.
A tiny minority of U.S. Copts, however, have used their adopted nation’s free-speech protections to speak out against Islam in a way that would not be tolerated in their native Egypt. The few who engage in this anti-Muslim, evangelical activism — including those behind the movie trailer — are fueled by that history, said Eliot Dickinson, an associate professor of political science at Western Oregon University who has written a book on U.S. Copts.
“Whoever made this film is such an outlier in their community that it’s completely unrepresentative,” Dickinson said. “But what it does is, it taps into this frustration of always being persecuted back in Egypt and let’s not downplay that. To be a Copt in Egypt now is a very, very difficult life because, especially after the Arab Spring, it’s open season.”
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, is the man federal authorities have said is behind the film, though he has only acknowledged publicly that he was involved in management and logistics. He has a criminal record that includes drug and check-fraud convictions, and he has been in hiding since leaving his suburban Los Angeles home last weekend.
Media for Christ was listed as the production company for the film, and its headquarters was where most of the movie was made. Its president is Joseph Abdelmasih, an outspoken critic of Muslims, who also has gone into hiding. Steve Klein, a California insurance agent who has dedicated his life to warning the world about Muslim extremism, has said he was a consultant and promoter of the film. [More]