The cast of the film Innocence of Muslims, which reportedly helped spark violence across the Middle East, says they were duped by the movie’s producer and only signed up for a sword-and-sandals epic called Desert Warriors that had nothing to do with the Prophet Muhammad. That producer, who initially went by the pseudonym “Sam Bacile,” is reported to be Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California-based Coptic Christian who spent two days in jail and received three years’ probation after being arrested for “intent to manufacture methamphetamine” in 1997, and was convicted on federal bank fraud charges in 2010.
So far, Nakoula is being painted as the fall guy after a 13-minute preview for the incendiary film, dubbed over in Arabic and uploaded to YouTube, reportedly helped trigger protests in Egypt and Libya that left the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi burned and the U.S ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, dead, along with three other Americans. But what about the company behind the amateurish video, which depicts Muhammad as a sex-crazed sadist prone to acts of unspeakable violence? Media for Christ, a Christian nonprofit organization based in Duarte, Calif., took out a film permit for the production of Desert Warriors, according to spokesmen at Film LA, Inc., and the office of the County of Los Angeles.
“The International Media is crowded with many topics that do not bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” says Media for Christ on its its MySpace page. “The Lord has given me the vision for Media for Christ so we could proclaim the peace of Jesus through an effective Christian media that would positively touch everyone. In June 2005 by the grace of God Media for Christ was established to become the light that shows Jesus Christ to all human beings.”
Media for Christ did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The office of the California secretary of State confirmed to The Daily Beast that Media for Christ is an active corporation established in June 2005 and that the owner is listed as Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, who often goes by Joseph Nassralla or Nasrallah. Abdelmasih also is listed as owner of The Way TV, a TV network established in 2005 that includes a talk show hosted by Steve Klein, who has said he was one of the consultants on Innocence of Muslims.
Abdelmasih is no stranger to controversy. After delivering a passionate speech at the 10,000-strong protest against a proposed ground zero mosque on Sept. 11, 2010, he was escorted off the premises by police. According to media reports, Abdelmasih and a friend were speaking Arabic to one another, which inflamed members of the rally.
“He was a Coptic Christian who spoke against the brutal oppression, subjugation, and persecution of Coptic Christians under the Sharia in Egypt,” Pamela Geller, one of the rally’s organizers and co-founder of the group Stop Islamization of America, told The Daily Beast.
Film LA, Inc., which coordinates and processes permits for film and TV productions in the Los Angeles region, told The Daily Beast that the film was shot in Santa Clarita. “The producer’s name on the permit was Sam Bossil, which is probably another variation on ‘Sam Bacile,’” said a spokesman. “We don’t ask for ID and it’s very common for companies to use ‘working titles’ for films, because of the public interest. We’ve had movies like The Dark Knight go under Magnus Rex.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast on the film permit for Desert Warriors, the County of Los Angeles public affairs office said: “The issuance of all film permits is handled by Film LA, on behalf of the County of Los Angeles. While these permits are typically made available to the public, online, this particular permit has been temporarily removed by Film LA, and the County of Los Angeles, and is not being made available to the public at this time due to public safety concerns raised by the U.S. State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The Federal government has not issued an official request to the County of Los Angeles to remove the permit.”
The film permit came at a cost of $1,100 and included lines that described minor special effects sequences but no film synopsis, a County of Los Angeles public affairs office spokesman said. The permit is being withheld because it includes the names and addresses of several players involved with the production, many of whom were production assistants or grips with little to no direct involvement in the project. A redacted version of the permit may be issued in the coming days, the spokesman added.
Several other strange videos of Abdelmasih, going by the variant Joseph Nasrallah are available on YouTube that depict him singing hymns. They seem pretty harmless.