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.