After a film denigrating the prophet Muhammad served as a lightning rod for already strained tensions in the Middle East, it took a while before the media spotlight ultimately focused on an Egyptian-American with a Coptic background.
Protests erupted across the Middle East decrying the film “Innocence of Muslims,” after a trailer was released and then dubbed in Arabic. By Sunday, protests had spread as far as Australia.
Federal law enforcement authorities in the United States have told the Associated Press that Nakoula Bassely Nakoula is the main figure behind the film.
|Nakoula Bassely Nakoula|
They linked him to “Sam Bacile,” a false name used by a man who initially told AP that he was the director. He was brought in for questioning Sunday. He was released the same day, but said he would not go back to his home, around which the media is encamped. It is thought he may be in hiding.
Other media reports suggest Bacile may be his son.
Those working on the film ― who say they were duped ― said they were paid by a man going by the name Sam, but the checks were in the name of Abanob Baseely Nakoula ― Nakoula’s son.
Bacile had claimed to be an Israeli Jew, and that “Innocence of Muslims” was funded by Jewish backers, but Israeli Authorities say they have no record of a citizen by that name, and the film is thought to have been funded by Media for Christ, a Christian non-profit organization based in California and led by a Christian from Egypt.
A phone number used by Bacile was traced by police to Nakoula, who is out on parole for financial fraud.
Nakoula says he is not Bacile, but knows who Bacile is. He says that he was only involved in logistics for the film.
But he admitted to uploading the trailer for the film, a breach of his parole, which bars him from using the Internet. And if he really is Bacile, it won’t be the first time he has used a false name ― court papers from 2010 say he has used more than a dozen in the past.
Whether Nakoula or not, whoever is actually behind the film has certainly led the media in a merry dance, and a dangerous one at that.
By Paul Kerry (firstname.lastname@example.org