Recently by Justin Raimondo: Blasphemy and Empire
If someone had planned to upend US foreign policy – to utterly destroy the very basis [.pdf] of all our diplomats (and military personnel) have been working to achieve in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world – they couldn't have done a better job of it than whoever put together Innocence of Muslims.
As violent protests spread, the consequences continue to roll in: the suspension of joint US-Afghan military operations, the suspension of US aid talks with Egypt, the rapid decline of US prestige in the region, and the growing influence of the radical Islamist movement US support for the u201CArab Springu201D was designed to counter. The Obama administration's effort to split the Islamist upsurge and lend its support to u201Cmoderatesu201D has been stopped cold.
Was the release of the video a random event, one of those unpredictables that can arise at any moment to foil the best-laid plans? Perhaps. Yet one is hard-pressed to explain what the makers of Innocence sought to accomplish, if not precisely what has occurred. According to various explanations floated in the media – primarily by anti-Muslim agitator Steve Klein – the idea was to promote the video to Muslims. In one account, Klein says he hoped the video would u201Csmoke outu201D Muslim radicals in the US, who he is convinced have organized secret u201Ccellsu201D that will strike on command. On the other hand, we are told the film's authors and promoters hoped to u201Cconvertu201D Muslims.
Neither explanation is very convincing. The video itself is so crude, so inept, and so deliberately insulting it is hard to believe anyone thought it could convert anyone to anything. And as for the prospect of u201Csmoking outu201D secret Islamist cells – if there were such cells, one would hardly expect them to reveal themselves because of a YouTube video.
In order to understand the real motives and goals of the makers of Innocence, it is necessary to take a good look at the people who have, so far, been identified as the film's authors and promoters.
The central figure in all this is reported to be one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 56-year-old Egyptian immigrant: although Nakoula presented himself in an interview with the Associated Press as u201CSam Bacile,u201D a 56-year-old u201CIsraeli-Americanu201D real estate developer, he is a Coptic Christian, a member of a persecuted minority in Egypt – and a convicted felon. Media reports portray him as the central figure in the making of Innocence: he denies this, and describes his job as arranging u201Clogisticsu201D for the film. Nakoula’s role seems to have been that of a facilitator – gofer – rather than u201Ccreative director,u201D and in any case he hardly seems the type to have originated the idea for the movie. Having been released from jail – where he was serving a sentence for bank fraud – barely a month before filming started, Nakoula was hardly in a position to undertake such a project. Chances are he was recruited by someone else, the real originator and driving force behind Innocence – but who is that someone?
Public records show a filming permit was taken out by u201CMedia for Christ,u201D an outfit run by one Joseph Nasrallah Abdelmasih. His group sponsors Christian programming in Arabic, including u201CThe Way,u201D a production that has featured such prominent Islamophobes as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. The Geller-Spencer collaboration goes back to the protests against the New York City u201CGround Zerou201D mosque in which the duo achieved national notoriety: Nasrallah was one of the speakers at their rally. The idea for just such a movie as Innocence showed up on Geller's blog in February, in a post entitled u201CA Movie About Muhammad: An Idea Whose Time Has Come.u201D Ali Sina, an ex-Muslim and board member of Geller and Spencer's u201CStop the Islamization of Nations,u201D exhorted Geller's readers to support his movie project:
u201CThe movie shows Muhammad's raids, plunders, massacres, rapes, assassinations and other crimes. A small subtitle in the lower right corner of each scene will give reference to the source of the story. This movie is entirely factual. Wherever possible, I copied the Quran, the Sira and the Hadith verbatim. It is a riveting story. Truth about Muhammad is more shocking than fiction.
u201CThe world does not know Islam. What is known is a watered down and euphemized version of it that has no bases [sic] in reality. The truth is that Muhammad was a cult leader, much like Jim Jones, Shoko Asahara and Charles Manson. Unlike them he succeeded because there was no central power in the seventh century Arabia to stop him.
u201CThe other good news is that I have been promised a substantial angel financing. I have been daydreaming about this movie for ten years. It was this promise that prompted me into action. I put everything aside for five months, read everything I could about my protagonist, selected the most salient episodes and wrote the script.
u201CThe seed is now sown. Now it's time to nurture it. What I need is an experienced executive producer, someone who shares my values, to make it happen with professionalism and missionary zeal.
u201CI am not thinking of a high budget movie, but given the subject matter, it can become one of the most seen motion pictures ever. (Recall Danish cartoons?)u201D
This may or may not be the same movie as Innocence, but what's important here is that the idea of such a provocation – u201Crecall Danish cartoons?u201D – was percolating in these circles when the movie was in production.
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.