WASHINGTON – In the past month an anti-Islam film trailer for a movie called “The Innocence of Muslims” has triggered a international debate about free speech and the murder of 50 people. The director, an Egyptian national and convicted methamphetamine distributor by the name of Nakoula Nakoula, now faces up to three years in U.S. prison for lying to probation officers about his role in the creation of the trailer. Numerous countries, including Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, India and Singapore, have blocked the video. Turkey, Brazil and Russia have taken steps to see the video blocked.
A Pakistani man this week offered $200,000 to anyone who would kill Mr. Nakoula.
Before serious violent protests initiated in Egypt on September 11, Embassy Cairo officials responded to growing local disgust with the film by releasing a statement that violation of “religious feelings” was outside of a reasonable interpretation of a universal value of freedom of expression. The Weekly Standard would in the coming day incorrectly imply — by using the term “meanwhile” to describe the timeline of the release of the embassy’s statement vis-a-vis the violent protests — that the statements were in response to what would be the actually eventual climbing of the embassy walls by an angry crowd and the burning of its flag. The same day Republican President Nominee Mitt Romney would attack the White House for the embassy’s statements.
An ABC/Washington Post poll released Saturday showed a 15-point dip in President Barack Obama’s credibility on international affairs among political independents compared to Mr. Romney, the likely additional consequence of an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya and a nearby safe house that left dead Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Speaking with Politico on the Eastern Seaboard in the hours after the attack in Egypt, the White House would walk back Embassy Cairo’s statement, saying that it did not reflect the White House’s own view. But in the past week President Obama spoke before the U.N. General Assembly to the effect that:
“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied.”
Speaking during the same session, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi would articulate his view that a right to freedom of speech could not rightfully apply to an attack on a “religion or cult.”
Mr. Obama’s expression at the United Nations comes 25 years after the release of “Piss Christ,” a National Endowment for the Arts-sponored photograph of a crucifix submerged in artist Andres Serrano’s urine. Persecution of Christians, particularly Coptics such as Mr. Nakoula, is about as bad in Egypt as in any other country.
In mid-September, The New York Times’ Claire Cain Miller, after having spoken to Google representatives, wrote that the company’s decision to keep the video up in the United States was due to its content being “against the Islam religion but not Muslim people.” Even the title of trailer however seems to indict Muslims personally. Indeed the trailer attacks the character of Mohammed, albeit in crass tones, Islam’s founding figure and obviously a Muslim himself, for his having sought a nine-year-old wife, a widely acknowledged historical event.