THE PROVOCATIVE VIDEO......

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  1. rooter

    rooter *VMBB Senior Chief Of Staff*

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    September 12, 2012
    Origins of Provocative Video Are Shrouded

    By ADAM NAGOURNEY


    LOS ANGELES — The film that set off violence across North Africa was made in obscurity somewhere in the sprawl of Southern California, and promoted by a network of right-wing Christians with a history of animosity directed toward Muslims. When a 14-minute trailer of it — all that may actually exist — was posted on YouTube in June, it was barely noticed.

    But when the video, with its almost comically amateurish production values, was translated into Arabic and reposted twice on YouTube in the days before Sept. 11, and promoted by leaders of the Coptic diaspora in the United States, it drew nearly one million views and set off bloody demonstrations.

    The history of the film — who financed it; how it was made; and perhaps most important, how it was translated into Arabic and posted on YouTube to Muslim viewers — was shrouded Wednesday in tales of a secret Hollywood screening; a director who may or may not exist, and used a false name if he did; and actors who appeared, thanks to computer technology, to be traipsing through Middle Eastern cities. One of its main producers, Steve Klein, a Vietnam veteran whose son was severely wounded in Iraq, is notorious across California for his involvement with anti-Muslim actions, from the courts to schoolyards to a weekly show broadcast on Christian radio in the Middle East.

    Yet as much of the world was denouncing the violence that had spread across the Middle East, Mr. Klein — an insurance salesman in Hemet, Calif., a small town two hours east of here — proclaimed the video a success at portraying what he has long argued was the infamy of the Muslim world, even as he chuckled at the film’s amateur production values.

    “We have reached the people that we want to reach,” he said in an interview. “And I’m sure that out of the emotion that comes out of this, a small fraction of those people will come to understand just how violent Muhammad was, and also for the people who didn’t know that much about Islam. If you merely say anything that’s derogatory about Islam, then they immediately go to violence, which I’ve experienced.”

    Mr. Klein has a long history of making controversial and erroneous claims about Islam. He said the film had been shown at a screening at a theater “100 yards or so” from Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood over the summer, drawing what he suggested was a depressingly small audience. He declined to specify what theater might have shown it, and theater owners in the vicinity of the busy strip said they had no record of any such showing.

    The amateurish video opens with scenes of Egyptian security forces standing idle as Muslims pillage and burn the homes of Coptic Christians. Then it cuts to cartoonish scenes depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug.

    Even as Mr. Klein described his role in the film as incidental, James Horn, a friend who has worked with Mr. Klein in anti-Muslim activities for several years, said he believed Mr. Klein was involved in providing technical assistance to the film and advice on the script. Mr. Horn said he called Mr. Klein on Wednesday. “I said, ‘Steve, did you do this?’ He said, ‘Yep.’ ”

    As the movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” drew attention across the globe, it was unclear whether a full version exists. Executives at Hollywood agencies said they had never heard of it. Hollywood unions said they had no involvement. Casting directors said they did not recognize the actors in the 14-minute YouTube clip that purports to be a trailer for a longer film. Production offices had no records for a movie of that name. There was a 2009 casting call in BackStage, however, for a film called “Desert Warrior” whose producer is listed as Sam Bassiel.

    That name is quite similar to the one that Mr. Klein, in the interview, said was the director of his film. He spelled it Sam Basile, though he added that was not the director’s real name. Mr. Klein said he met Mr. Basile while scouting mosques in Southern California, “locating who I thought were terrorists.”

    An actress who played the role of a mother in the film said in an interview that the director had originally told cast members that the film was “Desert Warriors” and would depict ancient life. Now, she said, she feels duped, angry and sad. “When I looked at the trailer, it was nothing like what we had done. There was not even a character named Muhammad in what we originally put together,” said the actress, who asked that her name not be used for fear of her safety.

    She said she had spoken on Wednesday to the film’s director, whose last name she said was spelled Basil. She said he told her that he made the film because he was upset with Muslims killing innocent people.

    The original idea for the film, Mr. Klein said, was to lure hard-core Muslims into a screening of the film thinking they were seeing a movie celebrating Islam. “And when they came in they would see this movie and see the truth, the facts, the evidence and the proof,” he said. “So I said, yeah, that’s a good idea.”

    Among the film’s promoters was Terry Jones, the Gainesville, Fla., preacher whose burning of the Koran led to widespread protests in Afghanistan. Mr. Jones said Wednesday that he has not seen the full video.

    Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Mr. Jones on Wednesday and asked him to consider withdrawing his support for the video. Mr. Jones described the conversation as “cordial,” but said he had not decided what he would do because he had yet to see the full film.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center said Mr. Klein taught combat training to members of California’s Church at Kaweah, which the center described as a “a combustible mix of guns, extreme antigovernment politics and religious extremism” and an institution that had an “obsession with Muslims.”

    Warren Campbell, the pastor of the church, said that Mr. Klein had come to the congregation twice to talk about Islam. He said the law center’s report on his church was filled “with distortions and lies.” The center also said that Mr. Klein was the founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts demonstrations outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques. Mr. Klein also has ties to the Minuteman movement.

    Mr. Horn said Mr. Klein was motivated by the near-death of his son, who Mr. Horn said had served in the United States Army in Iraq and was wounded in Falluja. “That cemented Steve’s feelings about it,” he said.

    Although Mr. Horn described Mr. Klein as connected to the Coptic community in Los Angeles — and Morris Sadek, the leader of a Washington-based Coptic organization, had promoted the film on the Web — Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles said he did not know of Mr. Klein. “We condemn this film,” he said. “Our Christian teaching is we have to respect people of other faiths.”
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