ANTI-ISLAM FILM REPORTEDLY SPARKS NEW PROTESTS
Violent protests reportedly sparked by the anti-Islam film The Innocence of Muslims, produced in the United States, spread to Yemen today (Thursday) as an angry mob chanting “Death to America” attempted to storm the American embassy in Sana’a. While the demonstrators were able to break through a line of security forces at the gate, they were unable to enter the building itself after guards fired warning shots into the air and tear gas canisters into the crowd. As was reportedly the case in Egypt and Libya a day earlier, the protesters were inflamed over a 14-minute trailer for the movie that was recently dubbed into Arabic and posted on YouTube. (Questions have been raised about whether an actual full-length movie exists at all.) The protests in Libya led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others, reportedly from smoke inhalation, after the mob set fire to the U.S. consulate. YouTube later blocked the trailer in Libya and Egypt but did not remove it, insisting that it does not violate its guidelines. It noted that it is also widely available elsewhere on the Web. Noting that YouTube was also credited with presenting unfiltered footage of the protests that brought down the oppressive regimes in Egypt and Libya earlier this year, today’s Los Angeles Times observed that the incident “raises questions about YouTube’s role as a neutral distribution platform.” Meanwhile, reporters were attempting to learn more about the man who created the film that sparked the protests. Using the cell phone number for Sam Bacile, identified in the film as the director, the Associated Press tracked down Nakoula Basseley Nakoula at the California address where the phone was registered. The wire service said that Nakoula denied that he was Bacile, but that when he produced a driver’s license to confirm his identity, he kept his thumb over his middle name. AP also learned that Nakoula had used the alias Bacily previously, had pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges, was sentenced to 21 months in prison, and ordered not to use computers for five years without approval of his probation officer. Actors appearing in the film issued a statement on Wednesday saying that they were misled about its nature and that their lines were crudely overdubbed in post-production, something that is apparent to those who have seen the film. One actress told Gawker.com that the script was titled Desert Warriors and contained no mention of Islam. Doubts were also raised by Nakoula/Bacily’s claim that he is an Israeli Jew engaged in real-estate development in California, But Steve Klein, the militant anti-Islam activist who was described as a consultant to the film, told The Atlantic magazine, “All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.” The Israeli Foreign Ministry told Daily Variety in Tel Aviv, “There’s no trace of [Sam Bacile] in official registries.” Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, said. “This film has nothing to do with us, and we clearly reject any manifestation of crude intolerance such as this piece, just as we condemn the unwarranted outburst of bloody violence that takes this film as its pretext.” In a separate interview with the New York Times, Palmor described the filmmaker as “a complete loose cannon and an unspeakable idiot.” Meanwhile, CNN suggested on Wednesday that the connection between the protests and the film may be flimsy at best and that they were likely planned weeks ago to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary.