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Innocence of Muslims

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Innocence of Muslims, also known as Innocence of bin Laden,[1] is an unwatchably bad extremely informative (read: prejudiced) Islamophobic film notable for allegedly inspiring violent protests in parts of the Islamic and western worlds during September 2012.

The film was probably made by Coptic Christian fraudster Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, although it was attributed to an Israeli-Californian real estate developer — whose name was given variously as "Sam Bacile," "Sam Bassiel," and "Sam Bassil"[2][3][1] — to express his belief that "Islam is a cancer."[4] This is just to show you that not even liberal Southern California cities are immune to crazy Islamophobia. Pastor Terry Jones (who previously publicly burned the Qu'ran and sparked fatal riots) has come out in support of the film.[5]

The film itself[edit]

Unfortunately, the films critical of Islam are by the people who do not know how to make films... I have been waiting for decades to watch an Islamic version of ‘Life of Brian.’ Where are our Pythons?
Taslima Nasrin[6]

Trailers for the film—including one that lasts for nearly fourteen minutes—have been posted online. As a work of cinema, the film is characterised by its rock-bottom production values, awful dialogue, terrible acting, poor direction, crude dubbing and sloppy editing. On at least one occasion, an actor flubbed his lines and nobody bothered to re-take the shot. The film also has unconvincing green-screening effects, with actors superimposed onto stock footage of a desert. Reportedly, this film cost five million dollars.[4]

The film's depiction of Muhammed

The film is a puerile and bigoted biography of the prophet Muhammed and his early followers, who are portrayed as brutish despots and child molesters. Among other obscure actors and performers, it features gay porn star Tim Dax,[7] and an actor trying to channel Michael KelsoWikipedia as the lead role. While films can be surprisingly expensive to make (even hilariously bad ones, like The RoomWikipedia), the idea that such an obviously cheap film could cost five million dollars is hard to swallow.[8][9]

It is however entirely possible that a full film doesn't even exist in any finished form and the only things ever produced were the those posted on YouTube.[10][11] This possible lack of existence has not prevented people having strong feelings either for or against it.

People involved with the film[edit]

The US lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas.
—Sam Bacile, or whatever he's calling himself these days[4]

Early reports mentioned that Bacile identified himself as an Israeli Jew, but later on Steve Klein, who worked with him on the project, referred to the filmmaker as a Christian; he also confirmed that Bacile's name is a pseudonym. It was eventually confirmed that the manager of the company that produced the film is a Coptic Christian. His name was given as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, but he is probably Mark Basseley Youseff – he gave that name when appearing in court so this is likely to be his real name.[12] Basseley whatever has a long list of fraud-related convictions.[13] He was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison for breach of probation conditions, though some of the court proceedings were undisclosed to the public.[12]

Steve Klein, who has past involvement with hate groups, action against abortion clinics, Mormon temples, and mosques, and helped to train Christian paramilitaries, is acting as a spokesman.[14]

Chunks of the film are clearly dubbed by different actors - even though it was shot in English – and members of the cast later went on record as saying that they had no idea they were appearing in an anti-Islamic film, being given completely different lines.[15] Despite getting involved unwittingly, the cast members have received death threats, had problems with their careers, financial trouble, and humiliation.[16]

Violence in the Middle East and North Africa[edit]

The film allegedly had a brief run in a single Hollywood cinema in early 2012,[9] but the trailer became an instant "cult classic" when an Arabic translation was posted to YouTube.[17] Fortunately, Islam is the religion of peace, so Muslims around the world criticized the inaccuracy and poor quality of the trailer and roundly mocked its director for producing such a piece of schlock.

Ha ha, just kidding. Turns out "the religion of peace" is just a slogan, and Muslims react poorly to blaspheming Muhammad. Salafist supporters of extreme Sharia law used the film to gain popularity.[18] On 11 September 2012, riots broke out in front of the American embassy in Cairo and at a consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where the American ambassador was murdered.[19] The epidemic of attacks on American embassies spread to several Middle Eastern and North African nations, together with angry demonstrations in other Middle East and North African nations.[20] In Sudan, the German and British embassies were also attacked.[21] Large protests occurred on 14 September 2012, and other western embassies were also attacked.[22] Pakistan blocked YouTube while protests continued throughout the Muslim world and the death toll mounted.[23] On 21 September 2012 the French magazine Charlie Hebdo also published material mocking Muhammad, fueling further protests. Protests continued with United States and other embassies being attacked, even cinemas and theaters being set on fire.[24] The toll of dead and injured rose steadily.[25] A Pakistani minister promised US$100,000 to anyone, including Taliban and Al-Qaeda, who killed the maker of the film. The minister, Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, considered this a "sacred duty".[26] He also demanded laws preventing insulting "our prophet."[27] Obama called on all leaders to speak out against violence and extremism.[28]

The protests resulted in at least 50 deaths and hundred of injuries worldwide.[29] Only a minority of the people in the countries affected were involved in the protests, but significant pressure groups manipulated the protesters. The tensions made it harder for new governments that arose after the Arab Spring to stabilize.

After Nacoula (or Youseff) was arrested, protests died down.

Death sentences[edit]

A court in Cairo sentenced seven Egyptian citizens involved with the film to death. Tried in absentia, they will face the sentence if they return to Egypt.[30]

Free speech[edit]

(...) and many people have been murdered – all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn.
Sam Harris September 19, 2012[31]

Sam Harris and others see this as part of a general pattern where Muslim extremists react violently to a wide range of criticisms of Islam. There is concern that Nakoula was arrested to appease Muslims rather than for the ostensible reason. Further, some fear the American government has sent a message that they are prepared to compromise free speech to appease Muslim extremists and free speech in the USA has become more problematic. Others in the US who want to criticize Islam may fear excuses will be found to prosecute them too.[32]

The BBC correctly observed that American free speech law mandate that the U.S. permit the film to be shown.[33] A few suggested that the film is not constitutionally protected speech in the U.S. because it appears the makers intended to put lives and property at risk. Indeed the timing of the trailer's release, about two weeks before the anniversary of 9/11, suggests deliberate provocation. The First Amendment, it is true, does not protect speech that is intended to incite imminent violence. But very few First Amendment scholars believed the film could fail to be protected by the "imminent violence" standard or any other legal theory.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 CNN: New details emerge of anti-Islam film's mystery producer/index.html 14 September 2012
  2. Insert your own pun here.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Breaking News: Anti-muslim filmmaker goes into hiding 12 September 2012
  5. Staff and crew of film that ridiculed Muslims say they were 'grossly misled'
  6. No Country for Women: God’s soldiers! 15 September 2012
  8. Weigel: Who is Sam Bacile? 12 September 2012
  9. 9.0 9.1 Inside Movies: 'Innocence of Muslims' mystery: Who is Sam Bacile? September 12 2012
  10. Does 'Innocence of Muslims' Actually Exist?
  11. Is Anti-Muslim Film a Hoax?
  12. 12.0 12.1 Innocence of Muslims Filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Sentenced to Year in Jail
  13. US identifies anti-Muslim filmmaker
  14. Steve Klein & 'Innocence Of Muslims': Film Promoter Remains Outspoken On Islam
  15. CNN, Actor: Anti-Islam filmmaker 'was playing us all along'. 17 Sept. 2012
  16. An Actress From ‘The Innocence Of Muslims’ Is Suing Google For A Cool $124 Million
  17. NBC News: Questions swirl around anti-Islam film blamed for Egypt protest, attack in Libya 12 September 2012
  18. Middle East Response to “Innocence of Islam” Film Why Are US Embassies Under Attack
  19. New York Times: Obscure Film Mocking Muslim Prophet Sparks Anti-U.S. Protests in Egypt and Libya 11 September 2012
  20. AP: Protestors Storm US Embassy in Yemen.
  21. BBC News: US embassies attacked as anti-Islam film protests escalate 14 September 2012
  22. Protests over anti-Islam film: As it happened
  23. Anti-Islam film: Thousands protest around Muslim world
  24. 'Innocence of Muslims' Protesters Torch Theaters as Riots Escalate in Pakistan
  25. Pakistan film protests: 15 die in Karachi and Peshawar
  26. Anti-Islam film: Pakistan minister offers bounty
  27. Anti-Islam film: Pakistan minister's bounty condemned
  28. Obama's UN General Assembly speech condemns extremism
  29. Death, destruction in Pakistan amid protests tied to anti-Islam film. CNN, 21 September 2012.
  30. CNN: Egyptian court orders death sentences over anti-Islam film
  31. On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God
  32. Appeasing thugs by trampling our rights
  33. Film protests: What explains the anger?