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September 17, 2012

Fearing backlash on Christians in Egypt:
American Coptic Church denounces the anti-Islam movie

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Fearing backlash of the American Coptics’ produced anti-Islam movie on the Christians in Egypt, the Los Angeles Diocese of the Coptic Orthodox Church has denounced the movie and emphasized that no religion or group should be blamed for the actions of one.

Copts in Egypt constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East accounting for an estimated 10% of the Egyptian population.

Addressing a joint press conference in Los Angeles, on September 17, Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii joined Dr. Maher Hathout Senior Adviser of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a leading American Muslim civil advocacy group, to condemn the violence and desecration of any religion.

“We cannot allow the actions of a few deceived fanatical individuals to define our communities. Responding with violence only serves to continue the hate rather than taking the positive steps to start the healing process,” Bishop Serapion said. “We call on members of both religions to lean on our faiths to counter the hate and the violence with good speech and positive work. That is why we are here together today. Our communities must continue to strive and take reasonable and practical steps to allow the healing to begin.”

“We are here to condemn putting prejudice and hate in a production that only serves to insult groups,” Dr. Hathout said. “We declare in no ambiguous terms that we are totally against mass labeling of a group of people because of the actions of some who claim to belong to that group. These people are neither Muslims nor Copts. Those are people who are psychologically diseased, with hearts full of hate and minds full of disease.”

American Muslims, sometimes accused of failing to speak out against violence carried out in the name of their religion, have forcefully condemned both the amateurish anti-Islam film and protest in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading American Muslim civil advocacy group, has released a video appeal in Arabic to those protesting the anti-Islam film. In the video, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad tells viewers in the Middle East that ordinary Americans and the U.S. government should not be blamed for the religious hatred expressed in the film.  He explains that the low-quality production was designed to provoke religious sensitivities and to distract from the positive efforts being undertaken to improve newly-free societies in the wake of the Arab Spring.  He quoted a verse in the Quran, which states that no soul will carry the burdens of another and asked viewers to emulate Prophet Muhammad, who did not retaliate in kind to personal abuse. He also urged protesters to put their energies into rebuilding their societies.

The Coptic and Muslim leaders’ press conference came as anti-American protests triggered by the anti-Islam movie continued throughout the Middle East, with burning cars and throwing rocks at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, torching a press club and a government building in northwest Pakistan and clashing with police outside the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia. Protesters have breached the walls or compounds of several U.S. diplomatic missions, including the consulate in Benghazi, Libya where the ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, Cairo and Tunis since September 11.

Anti-Islam film script was written in prison

As the week-long anti-American demonstrations continued in the Muslim world, more detail is emerging about the group which financed and produced the move.

The anti-Islam movie known as "Innocence of Muslims" was written, produced and directed by a convicted drug manufacturer and scam artist, who has told authorities he actually wrote the script in federal prison and began production two months after his June 2011 release from custody.

ABC News quoted authorities as saying that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, of Cerritos, California, admitted his role in the film, after seeking help from law enforcement in dealing with death threats he has received since the release of the film.

Authorities told ABC News that Nakoula told them he and his son, Abanob Basseley, 21, were responsible for producing the movie which, he reportedly said, cost between $50,000 and $60,000 and was shot in a little over 12 days.  Authorities say Nakoula claimed the money for the movie came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Using the false name Sam Basile, Nakoula had told reporters earlier this week that he was an "Israeli Jew," that the film had cost about $5,000,000, and that the money had come from wealthy Jewish friends.

Records obtained by ABC News show Nakoula was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine in the 1990s, and also served time in federal prison on bank fraud charges, where he told authorities he wrote the script.

Sentenced to 21 months in prison and five years on probation, Nakoula was moved from the federal correctional complex in Lompoc, California to a halfway house in 2010, according to the website The Smoking Gun. He was released from federal custody in June 2011 and production on the film began just two months later at a soundstage in Southern California.

Coptic-Religious Right Alliance

Alex Kane of AlterNet says as the more information came out, the more it became clear that the origins of the film lie in an alliance between members of the Egyptian Coptic Christian community, right-wing Christians and the well-funded network of Islamophobes in the U.S.

As the post-9/11 dust settled, a small, loosely connected group of anti-Muslim activists worked to lay the seeds of what would become a full-blown network of Islamophobes across the U.S. that peddled propaganda about the impending takeover of the U.S. by Muslims, who would impose “sharia law.”

And so a small number of Coptic Christians, by no means representative of the full Coptic community, have made alliances with right-wing evangelical Christians and virulent Islamophobes in the U.S. Kane said.

Press reports indicate that the anti-Muslim film was produced by an organization called Media for Christ which is head of that organization is Joseph Nasralla Abdelmasih, an anti-Muslim Coptic Christian from Egypt.

Abdelmasih rose to national prominence on September 11, 2010 when he spoke at a rally organized by the anti-Islamic Stop Islamization of America (SOIA), which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. At that rally, Abdelmasih said Egypt had once been Christian, but was conquered by Muslims through deception. The United States faced the same danger, he said. "(Muslims) conquered our country with their lies," Abdelmasih said. "They can lie just to build this mosque here." Abdelmasih continued by telling the audience that if the mosque was built, the U.S. would become Islamized within 10 years.

According to Kane, Abdelmasih is an ally of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, two leading Islamophobes in the U.S. The alliance of Egyptian Christians, right-wing American Christians and anti-Muslim activists have now sowed the seeds of more chaos in the Middle East. This is exactly what they wanted. “We went into this knowing this was probably going to happen,” Klein told the Associated Press.

“The people behind the film can also feel satisfied that they have contributed to a strain in U.S.-Egyptian relations at a time when the Muslim Brotherhood is in power. They hope that by destabilizing Egypt, Muslims will come off as crazy, violent people, and that U.S. relations with a government seen as hostile to Israel will be strained,” Kane concluded.

The anti-Muslim film consultant, Steve Klein, a California-based insurance salesman, “is a right-wing extremist who emerged from (the mindset) that produced Anders Behring Breivik and which takes inspiration from the writings of Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, and Daniel Pipes,” according to Max Blumenthal.

President Obama, after the death of Ambassador’s Stevens and colleagues (the ten Libyan staff seemingly passed him by) stated that he rejects denigration of religious belief, Felicity Arbuthnot of Global Research said adding:  “Perhaps a place to start denigration’s halt would be the home-grown in the Western, Crusading, fundamentalist Christian-Zionist alliance. From Wilders to Pipes.”

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