WASHINGTON, Sept 13: The US military chief, Gen Martin Dempsey, has telephoned a Florida pastor, Terry Jones, urging him to withdraw his support for a hate film which has stirred violent protests across the Muslim world.
“This was a brief call in which Gen Dempsey expressed his concerns over the nature of the film, the tensions it could inflame, and the violence it could cause,” a senior US official told a briefing in Washington.
In his call to Mr Jones on Wednesday, Gen Dempsey also asked him “to consider withdrawing his support for the film, Mr Jones did hear the general’s concerns, but he was non-committal,” the official added.
Mr Jones is known in the Muslim world as the pastor who organised a group burning of Islamic books two years ago.
Meanwhile, investigations by US media outlets, and Dawn, revealed that the producers drastically altered the film after it was made, turning it into a hate message against Islam and the Muslims.
The original film was not about Islam or the Prophet (PBUH), but about a man called George who lived 2,000 years ago.
The film — “Innocence of Muslims” — stirred violent protests in several Muslim countries and in Libya it led to the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his colleagues.
Actors who participated in the film told various media outlets that the producers hid their real intentions from them. Some actors showed copies of the original script which clearly identified the main character as George.
Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress from Bakersfield, California, told a website called Gawker that the script she was given was titled simply Desert Warriors.
“It was going to be a film based on how things were 2,000 years ago,” she said. “It wasn’t based on anything to do with religion.
It was just on how things were run in Egypt. There wasn’t anything about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) or Muslims or anything,” she said.
Watching the 14-minute trailer posted on Youtube also makes it clear that defamatory contents were added later, using a technique called voice over, which is used for suppressing the original voice and replacing it with someone else’s.
The violent reaction also caused a media frenzy in the United States where a number of journalists are now trying to determine who made this film, what was their intention and, above all, who posted its Arabic version on the internet.
Bacile or Nakoura: Initially, a man who identified himself as Sam Bacile, an Israeli Jew, claimed he produced the controversial film. But investigations showed that Sam Bacile was a fictitious character.
Investigations by the Associated Press news agency concluded that Sam Bacile does not exist, but is a persona used by a convicted Coptic Egyptian fraudster, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula.
On Thursday morning, a US law-enforcement official confirmed that Nakoula was behind the anti-Muslim film.
US federal court papers filed in a 2010 criminal prosecution against him said Nakoula had used numerous aliases in the past, including Nicola Bacily and Erwin Salameh.Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 to federal bank fraud charges in California and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and ordered not to use computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.
Nakoula had Coptic and evangelical associates in the shooting of the film, including Steve Klein, an extremist Christian, who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. He also conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.
Bacile claimed raising $5 million for the film but investigations showed that it was a low budget film and some of the actors were not even paid.
Investigations also revealed that the film was never screened anywhere in America, although Bacile claimed showing it in a virtually empty auditorium in Hollywood.
However, the man who apparently started the riots in the Arab world is another Egyptian Coptic, Morris Sadek. He helped translate the film into Arabic and also forwarded the Arabic version to various Egyptian television channels.
He also promoted the film on his Website.
Besides the motives and true origin of the producers, the US media is also asking questions about the timing of this hate project.
There are also questions about the execution of the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. US officials told reporters they believed it was not a mob attack but a planned assault by an armed group.