Filmmaker Sam Bacile has provoked strong protests in recent days, protests which have already claimed the life of an American consulate employee in Benghazi, Libya. In a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Bacile said that he went into hiding for fear that Islamic radicals would try to hurt him because his video, titled “Innocence of Islam,” showing the Prophet Mohammed as a skirt chaser who favored the sexual exploitation of children.
“Islam is a cancer. Period,” said Bacile in the call, made, he claimed, from his hiding place. He said he only wanted to send a message. The provocative filmmaker is a 56-year-old real estate man, describing himself as an Israeli Jew – though that claim of Israeli citizenship is unconfirmed and doubted by some. He explained that the film would help Israel by revealing the expansionism of Islam in the world and the danger of it.
Following news of the new film, gunmen attacked the consulate compound in Benghazi on Tuesday evening, clashing with and overwhelming Libyan security forces with heavy fire. Reuters reporters on the scene saw looters raiding the compound, walking off with desks, chairs and washing machines. A security official said a fire was burning inside the consulate and that staff had been evacuated. Three injured members of the Libyan security forces taken away in an ambulance.
The gunmen emerged from a crowd that was protesting a film they said was blasphemous.
The raid in Libya followed a protest in Egypt where demonstrators scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy, tore down the American flag and burned it.
The U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a hasty response, probably in an attempt to prevent what later took place in Benghazi:
“The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions… We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”
But an administration official told Politico, “The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government.”
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton subsequently issued a statement of her own, saying:
“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”
“Innocence of Islam” cost $5 million dollars and was funded by more than 100 Jewish donors. It was written and directed by Bacile, filmed in 2011, and is two hours long. The production employed 59 actors.
The only full screening to date has been in front of a half-empty theater in Hollywood. The parts of it that were uploaded to YouTube have already caused a wave of protests across the Muslim world.
Referring to the killing of a U.S. consulate worker in Benghazi, Libya, Bacile said: “I feel that the security system in these embassies is not good. America needs to do something to change it.”
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