New details emerge of anti-Islam film’s mystery producer

The spotlight in the search for the creators of an incendiary video mocking Islam that set off a wave of anti-American violence in the Middle East shifted Thursday to a shadowy gas station owner with a record of criminal arrests and bankruptcy, who associates said expressed anti-Muslim sentiments as he pushed for the making of the film.

 

CNN initially reported that the man behind the “Innocence of Muslims” movie is likely not an “Israeli real estate developer” by the name of Sam Bacile, but instead as some speculated an Egyptian Copt by the name Abenob Nakoula Bassely.  There are still doubts about who Bacile actually is and as Israel has no knowledge of a citizen by the name of Sam Bacile.

At the heart of the mystery was the filmmaker himself, a man identified in the casting call as Sam Bassiel, on the call sheet as Sam Bassil and reported at first by news outlets as Sam Bacile.

But federal officials consider that man to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who was convicted in 2009 of bank fraud.

 

In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker characterized his movie, now called “Innocence of Muslims,” as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.”

“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement.

 

The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal Jewish donors contributed $5 million to make the film. Based on the trailer, however, the amateurish movie appears to have been produced on a low budget.

Anti-Muslim activist Steve Klein, who said he was a script consultant for the movie, said the filmmaker told him his idea was to make a film that would reveal “facts, evidence and proof” about the Prophet Mohammed to people he perceived as radical Muslims.

Klein said the movie was called “Innocence of Bin Laden.”

Klein is known in Southern California for his vocal opposition to the construction of a mosque in Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2010. He heads up Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, a group that contends Islam is a threat to American freedom.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones to ask him to withdraw his support for the film, said Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman.

Leaders of the Coptic Church in the United States, after a fringe figure claiming to be a Coptic leader was linked Wednesday to promoting the film, forcefully denounced the video and denied any connection to the activists who promoted the trailer. They said they learned of the film only with news of the protests.

‘Sikhs are not Muslims’ sends a sinister message

Op-Ed: Such declarations by the news media and others has an insidious subtext: that there’s something wrong with being a Muslim in America.

Almost from the beginning of their coverage of the horrific and deadly shooting at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, CNN and other news media went out of their way to send a message to the American public: “Sikhs are not Muslims.”

But what were we to make of that message? If the temple’s members had been Muslims, would the attack have then been justified?

We say we don’t endorse prejudice against one group or another, but for some reason we also want to make sure people know who the “we” and the “they” really are. CNN would probably say it was simply trying to clear up a common misunderstanding that, in this case, may have been shared by the gunman himself. Fair enough. The assertion that Sikhs are not Muslims is certainly true. Jains are not Hindus, and Mormons are not Methodists either.

WHO THEY WERE: Sikh temple shooting victims

But in the post-9/11context of a deadly act committed by an apparent white supremacist against a congregation that is largely ethnically South Asian — a congregation that includes bearded men in turbans — broadcasting the mantra that “Sikhs are not Muslims” takes on a far more insidious subtext: Don’t blame these people, it implies, for the unspeakable crimes of 9/11. It’s Muslims you want.

The media aren’t alone in conveying, however unintentionally, this sinister message. When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he responded to the inaccurate but surprisingly persistent assertion that he was a Muslim with this statement in a 2008 debate: “The facts are I am Christian. I have been sworn in [as a U.S. senator] with a Bible.”

A Group to Counter Anti-Islam Sentiment

As anti-Muslim rhetoric rises locally and nationally — some of it fueled by the presidential campaign — a group of Chicago-area Muslims is battling back, using tactics including a television ad campaign and public forums against bigotry.

Gain Peace, an Islamic outreach organization based in Chicago, spent $40,000 in December to counter negative portrayals and produce two television ads intended to promote Islam as a just faith. The spots, which will run through March in the Chicago area on Fox, CNN and TNT, depict friendly Muslim students and professionals and display a phone number and a Web site for more information.

In the presidential race, both Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have depicted Islamic Shariah law as a potential threat to United States sovereignty. One of Mitt Romney’s foreign policy advisers, Walid Phares, regularly warns that Muslims aim to take over American institutions and impose Shariah, a legal code based mainly on the Koran that can involve punishments like cutting off the hands of a thief.

Mr. Ahmed, of Gain Peace, dismissed any connection between Islamic Circle and terrorism. “There is always a link people try to make,” he said. “But there is no proof.”

Mr. Redfield, of the University of Illinois at Springfield, said he thought the Muslim groups were smart to combat anti-Muslim rhetoric. “In politics, if you don’t define yourself someone else will,” he said. “They have to be proactive in terms of trying to neutralize ignorance and willful manipulation of negative opinion.”
Islamic Circle hopes to distribute the television ads nationwide.

Canadian Irshad Manji releases new book

News Agencies – June 10, 2011

 

Canadian author Irshad Manji writes in her new work, Allah, Liberty & Love, that she has moved from “anger to aspiration.” A rallying cry to readers to question orthodoxy without fear, the book concludes with the suggestion they get together to trade ideas. Manji even includes a recipe for chai tea to fuel such discussions. Anger was at the centre of The Trouble with Islam, her 2003 worldwide bestseller decrying her own religion’s entrenched prejudice against Jews and injustice toward women. The book earned her many fans but also hate mail, pinched-face cranks calling her the daughter of Satan, and even a smiling man who leaned in to shake her hand but instead spat in her face.

 

Manji now lives in a book-filled apartment — she calls it her Manji cave — in New York’s Greenwich Village, where she moved in 2008 to launch the Moral Courage Project at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. In the course, she encourages students to “challenge intellectual conformity and self-censorship.” A regular on Bill Maher’s late-night HBO show — the audience cheers when she comes on the set — and on the networks MSNBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Al Arabyia and, occasionally, FOX, she’s seen all over America and around the world. Manji writes twice monthly for The Globe and Mail, and contributes to The New York Times op-ed page and The Wall Street Journal.

Despite Manji’s wide audience in the U.S., her work has not resonated in parts of Canada’s mainstream Muslim community. “I don’t know why, but there seems to be little mention of Irshad in Muslim circles in Canada,” says Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

 

Lessons From The Whole Quran Episode

When Terry Jones, a Florida pastor, announced his plan to burn Qurans on 9/11 with a tweet and an “International Burn a Koran Day” page on Facebook, he ignited an international conflagration of outrage.

As news spread, worldwide condemnation and anxiety mounted. At least two people died in a demonstration in Afghanistan. It seemed this obscure self-proclaimed pastor in Gainesville, Florida, was determined to carry out an action of catastrophic global consequences.

Now that the crisis is over, CNN asked contributors to write their observations of what happened, and what lessons the pastor’s threat and the events that followed can teach us.

Landmark Commission Hearing May Determine Future of Ground Zero Mosque

By the CNN Wire Staff

New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a hearing Tuesday to decide whether a century-old building near ground zero is worth preserving. The hearing is expected to be contentious because if the commission rules the building is not worth landmarking, it will pave the way for a mosque and community center that has been planned there.

Foreign Policy: Twitter Firing Was A Mistake For CNN

By STEPHEN M. WALT

CNN has fired senior editor Octavia Nasr for tweeting that she was “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah … One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” Fadlallah was one of the spiritual leaders of Hezbollah, and regarded by the U.S. government as a terrorist. More importantly, plenty of American journalists and politicians have shown “respect” (and in some cases, fawning admiration) for various world figures with hands far bloodier than Ayatollah Fadlallah — including Mao Zedong, Ariel Sharon, the Shah of Iran, or even Kim il Sung — but it didn’t cost them their jobs. And let’s not forget that plenty of American journalists treat our own leaders with plenty of deference and “respect,” even after the latter have launched unnecessary wars in which tens of thousands have died or authorized the torture of detainees.

Octavia Nasr, CNN’s Mideast Editor, Fired by CNN over Tweet Praising Late Ayatollah

The Lebanese militant Hezbollah has denounced CNN’s decision to fire a Middle East editor for posting a note on Twitter expressing admiration for the country’s late top Shiite cleric. Octavia Nasr later apologized for her tweet in which she described Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah as “one of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.” But CNN officials said her credibility had been compromised. Hezbollah’s spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi says CNN’s decision amounts to “intellectual terrorism” and reflects the West’s “double standards” in dealing with the Mideast.

The Time Square bomber incident and the Timeline

“On May 1st, New York’s Times Square was the target of a failed terrorist attack. In the extensive coverage of the incident, you will find the timeline of the incident leading to the arrest of the suspect right before he scarped the country. The coverage will also include the news following the arrest, the charges against the suspect and the debate around the suspect’s Miranda rights. It will review some of  the immediate consequences of the incident including debates about the effectiveness of the no-fly list, the heightened security measures in NYC and potential effects of the incident on US foreign policy. International dimensions of the incident in linkage to Pakistani Taliban as well as the coverage by Pakistani sources have also been included. Finally, a collection of links related to the suspect’s background is available.”

LA Times: Pres. Obama: “We will not be terrorized.”

Associated Press via LA Times and ABC: Police Release the Video of “A Person of Interest”

CBS: On the Vehicle

Fox News: Potential Foreign Links

LA Times: NYPD: No Evidence of Taliban Links

Associated Press via My Fox, Democracy Now, LA Times: Times Square Hero

Associated Press via CNN, WNYC, The Washington Post and CBS News:The Timeline

Associated Press via CNN, La Times, Huston Chronicle: The Last-Minute Arrest

Aftermath and Consequences

“On May 1st, New York’s Times Square was the target of a failed terrorist attack. In the extensive coverage of the incident, you will find the timeline of the incident leading to the arrest of the suspect right before he scarped the country. The coverage will also include the news following the arrest, the charges against the suspect and the debate around the suspect’s Miranda rights. It will review some of  the immediate consequences of the incident including debates about the effectiveness of the no-fly list, the heightened security measures in NYC and potential effects of the incident on US foreign policy. International dimensions of the incident in linkage to Pakistani Taliban as well as the coverage by Pakistani sources have also been included. Finally, a collection of links related to the suspect’s background is available.”

USA Today: Pakistani-Americans’ “Worst Fear”
Associated Press via CNN, CBS News, The Wall Street Journal: Questions about the No-Fly List
Associated Press via CNN and The New York Time: On Terror-Watch List Individuals Buying Gun
Associated Press via CNN and MSNBC: Bill aiming at Stripping Certain Americans of Their Citizenship
CNN: Tightening Security Measures at East Coast Airports
Associated Press via The New York Time and La Times: Extra Security Measures
Associated Press via ABC, CBS News, USA Today: Abandoned Truck Forces NYC Bridge Shutdown
Associated Press via ABC 4, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post: Police Investigates a Suspicious Package
MSNBC: Petraeus on the “New Generation of Terror”
Huston Chronicle: Petraeus: Suspect Likely Acted Alone
USA Today: Potential Effects on US Foreign Policy