Anger toward Islam binds players behind film
By Michael R. Blood
DUARTE, Calif. — The shared belief that radical Islam threatens the world brought together an exconvict, an insurance salesman and a Christian charity in production of a crudely crafted film that ridicules Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad and has incited violent protests across the Middle East. Media for Christ, a nonprofit that raised more than $1 million last year “to glow Jesus’ light” to the world, was listed as the production company for the film. Steve Klein, a California insurance salesman and Vietnam War veteran who has spent years protesting at mosques and espousing hatred of radical Muslims, acted as the film’s promoter. Federal authorities have identified Nakoula Basseley Nakoula as the key figure behind the film. A federal law enforcement official on Thursday said that authorities had identified Nakoula as the man using the pseudonym Sam Bacile, who claimed earlier to be the writer and director of the film. Nakoula, who says he managed logistics for the film, has been convicted of bank fraud and uses multiple names, authorities say.
Most of “Innocence of Muslims” was shot in about two weeks inside a warehouse that serves as the offices of Media for Christ, according to Eric Moers, who served as chief electrician for the production.
Media for Christ
What prompted Media for Christ’s involvement isn’t known because the organizations’ leaders have not spoken publicly. And much about the film remains a mystery, notably who financed it.
The clumsily produced film, which looks like a spoof, alternately portrays Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Despite its poor production values, the film would have cost at least tens of thousands of dollars to make because of the equipment used and the professional actors and stage hands who were hired.
Moers said the film took 15 to 16 days to shoot and 90percent of the work was done at the Media for Christ studios. He said one day was spent at a movie ranch in Santa Clarita, and one day was spent filming at the home of the man he knew as Bacile.
Most of the film was shot using special effects to simulate other locations. The crew members were not given scripts, and Moers said there was no mention of the name “Muhammad” throughout the filming. Other actors have come forward to say references to Muhammad were dubbed after the film was shot and they had no idea the film would be so denigrating.
“I’d say this was the most unprofessional professional film I’ve worked on,” said Moers, who estimated the cost of production at $100,000. “I don’t think anyone took it seriously.”
He said he was paid with a check issued on the account of Abanob Basseley Nakoula, the 20-yearold son of the purported filmmaker.
Connection to hate groups
While Klein has granted a steady stream of interviews and is unapologetic for the film, Nakoula has disappeared since talking to an Associated Press reporter Wednesday in the driveway of his suburban Los Angeles home. And Media for Christ President Joseph N. Abdelmasih — a Coptic Christian originally from Egypt — has not spoken publicly.
Tax records for the charity do not identify any donors other than Abdelmasih, who loaned the organization at least $30,000. He did not respond to phone messages or an email sent to the charity. Kamal Rizk, listed as vice president on federal records, did not return several phone messages.
Abdelmasih has spoken out against radical Islam and participated in a protest against a mosque and Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site.
Klein has a long history of anti-Muslim activities. He founded Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. He also started Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which preaches against Muslims and publishes volumes of anti-Muslim propaganda that Klein distributes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled two of the organizations Klein is affiliated with as hate groups.