Let’s start at the beginning of this one, shall we? The U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three others died yesterday over what amounts to a home video made by a bigoted California real-estate developer. An angry mob attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Before all the particulars were in (and breaking a self imposed embargo on political attacks on September 11th) the Republican nominee issued a factually incorrect statement denouncing the Obama administration.
So let’s start with the video/film. It’s an amateurish production called “Innocence of Muslims”, produced by a self-described Israeli Jew and California developer named Sam Bacile. Until recently, the video seemed destined to languish in the dust bins of right-wing theocratic book stores; it had been screened exactly once, to a mostly empty theater in Los Angeles. (Eds Note: Turns out that the full length feature that the trailer promoted never existed)
“Innocence” depicts the Islamic religion as a “cancer”, Muslims in general as immoral and gratuitously violent, and the prophet Mohammed variously sleeping with women, talking about killing children and referring to a donkey as “the first Muslim animal.” It also strongly suggests that the founder of that religion was a pedophile.
UPDATE From ProPublica:
A trailer for The Innocence of Muslims was posted on YouTube in July on an account bearing the name “sam bacile.” Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches first raised questions about information “Bacile” — identified as a California real estate developer — gave to the AP and the Wall Street Journal in recent phone interviews. Christian activist Steve Klein, who has been described in the media as a consultant on the film, told the Atlantic that “Sam Bacile” was a pseudonym and he did not know the person’s true identity. The AP reported that “Bacile” is an Israeli Jew living in California and that he had raised $5 million for the film from 100 Jewish donors. But Klein told the Atlantic that “Bacile” is not Israeli.
UPDATE#2 From Gawker:
The story of the Muhammed movie which sparked deadly protests in Libya gets weirder. At least some of the actors who appeared in it had no idea they were starring in anti-Islam propaganda which depicts Muhammed as a child molester and thug. They were deceived by the film’s director, believing they were appearing in a film about the life of a generic Egyptian 2,000 years ago.
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, Calif., has a small role in the Muhammed movie as a woman whose young daughter is given to Muhammed to marry. But in a phone interview this afternoon, Garcia told us she had no idea she was participating in an offensive spoof on the life of Muhammed when she answered a casting call through an agency last summer and got the part.
The script she was given was titled simply Desert Warriors. According to Garica, her three days on set last July were unremarkable. The film’s mysterious pseudonymous writer and director, “Sam Bacile,” has claimed to be an Israeli real estate mogul. But Garcia said Bacile told her he was Egyptian on set. Bacile had white hair and spoke Arabic to a number of “dark-skinned” men who hung around the set, she said.
UPDATE3# From Associated Press:
WASHINGTON — A U.S. law enforcement official says a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is behind the anti-Muslim film being blamed for mob attacks in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
A man who calls himself Sam Bacile has said he created the film, but The Associated Press on Wednesday connected Nakoula to the Bacile persona.
Somebody anonymously (using the name ‘sam bacile’) translated a fourteen minute trailer for “Innocence” into Arabic and posted it on YouTube on September 4th. The video went viral, with word circulating that Coptic Christians were involved in its promotion and/or production.
Yesterday an Egyptian journalist filed a lawsuit against the producers of the film for “offence to Islam” and called upon authorities to strip the Egyptian Copts involved of their citizenship. That action moved the rumors swirling around the video into a major media story, inciting fundamentalists in both Egypt and Libya to take to the streets.
Morris Sadek, the head of the National American Coptic Assembly in the U.S., told the Associated Press he had been promoting the film on his website. He also tweeted a link to the trailer on September 9. Sadekis known for his vehemently anti-Islam views, and told the Wall Street Journal that “the violence that it [the film] caused in Egypt is further evidence of how violent the religion and people are”.
Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose claim to fame was the burning of Qurans last year, spurring riots across the Muslim world leading to several deaths, is also reportedly involved in promoting the film.
Prior to the mob turning violent in Egypt and the attacks against Americans, U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson (A career diplomat who also served as Bush’s Ambassador to Pakistan and close associate of Romney advisor John Bolton) issued a statement (and a few since-deleted tweets) apologizing for the offending video and criticizing “continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”
Here is the statement issued in Cairo:
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.”
GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaign quickly accused President Barack Obama of sympathizing with the embassy attackers, saying:
I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
A copyrighted photograph by the Associated Press apparently shows Romney smirking as he walked away from the podium after issuing that statement Wednesday evening.
Again, at the point when the Embassy in Cairo issued its statement, there had been NO attacks.
That fact didn’t stop GOP Chair Reince Priebus, Grizzly Mama Sarah Palin and a host of other right wingers from joining the fray. Palin:
The embassy actually apologized to the violent mob attacking us, and it even went so far as to chastise those who use free speech to “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” (Funny, the current administration has no problem hurting the “religious feelings” of Catholics.)
Presidential candidate Romney is standing by his September 11th critique, so far, but foreign policy experts from both sides of the political aisle have voiced disapproval of his statement. From Buzzfeed:
Mitt Romney’s sharply-worded attack on President Obama over a pair of deadly riots in Muslim countries last night has backfired badly among foreign policy hands of both parties, who cast it as hasty and off-key, released before the facts were clear at what has become a moment of tragedy….
“They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up,” said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an “utter disaster” and a “Lehman moment” — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.
It was a bad day for the United States. Our home grown haters, nurtured by the extremists on the right, made a first amendment protected statement that incited additional hatred around the globe. Now four Americans are dead. Their video/film may be legal and protected, but that does not mean that they don’t deserve to be shamed. And the first words out of Mitt Romney’s mouth should have been about disowning the hatred. Instead, he opted to prove once again that his crusade is really an Anti (anything-that-we-can-think-
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