A screenshot from a trailer for controversial anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims."
Coptic Christians in Southern California are distancing themselves from the alleged director of an anti-Muslim film that some observers say has sparked deadly violence in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East. The victims include U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
This morning, the Associated Press reported that U.S. authorities had named 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian based in Southern California, as the director of a film titled "Innocence of Muslims," which mocks Muslims and the prophet Muhammad. In the report, Nakoula has denied directing the film. He says he only assisted with film logistics. Nakoula identified the filmmaker as Sam Bacile, although cell phone records trace back to Nakoula.
Photo by Mae Ryan/KPCC
Egyptian Coptic Christians pray during a service at St. Mary of Egypt Coptic Orthodox Church in Newhall, Calif.,Â October 2011
At the beginning of this year, as the protests in Egypt that eventually led to the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak were heating up, there were many Coptic Christian Egyptians in Egypt and abroad who were apprehensive, less confident about what might happen in Mubarak's absence than the majority of those in the crowds rallying in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
As a religious minority in a majority-Muslim country, the Copts feared persecution. Now, eight months after Mubarak stepped down, anti-Copt violence has spread and is growing increasingly deadly. It took on new proportions last Sunday, during a protest by Copts in Cairo over the government's failure to investigate an attack on a church stemming by a permitting controversy.
Witnesses said military vehicles sped into the crowd, crushing protesters. Others were shot. Twenty-five people were killed and hundreds injured. The violence has cast a pall on the elation felt months ago by Egyptians at home and abroad. Egyptian immigrants in the United States, once glued to the television as they cheered what they hoped would be the end of the repression many fled, are becoming more accustomed lately to bad news from home.