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Steve Kline

Mystery men

Islam | Violence continues in the Middle East and North Africa over a shallow film and its shadowy filmmaker

Violence directed at the United States over a video clip mocking Islam spread into a fourth day, undiminished on Friday, the Muslim holy day.

Clashes near the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen's capital, left four people dead and dozens wounded. Hundreds took to the streets to protest the United States in Iran's capital, Tehran, as well as in Baghdad, in Gaza, and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Police have continued to face off against protesters outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, where violence over the film began on Tuesday and has left at least 30 injured. And in Libya, where an angry mob stormed and burned the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, journalists got their first look at the charred and looted compound.

Questions remain as to how a 14-minute video clip posted on YouTube could set in motion such a fierce outbreak. On Friday the FBI identified the film's producer, who has gone by the name Sam Bacile, as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. The 55-year-old California man once was convicted of financial crimes and prohibited from using computers or the internet as part of his sentence. While Libyan officials have suggested that the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens could have been coordinated and part of a possible terrorist plot linked to the anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. government on Friday adhered to its position that the film is the "catalyst" for the violence.

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But few have actually seen the controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, which has only shown as trailer clips on YouTube and other sites.

Steve Klein, an anti-Muslim activist who founded Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, says he served as a consultant for the film and told WORLD on Thursday he worked with its mysterious producer, whom he referred to as "Sam Bacile."

Klein described his activism as "a lot of First Amendment educational outreaches" and said it has given him inroads into the "Middle East refugee" community in Southern California. Through those connections - largely ethnic Christians from Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, and elsewhere - Klein said he met the man he knew as Bacile, now allegedly in hiding.

But Klein said he spoke with Bacile (Nakoula) by phone and met with him in California. "He wanted to know if he made the movie, would he get arrested, thrown in jail. Would there be repercussions in America?" Klein said he told him, "'Under the First Amendment Lady Gaga can come to a dance and nobody arrests her. The more controversial the movie, the better it is,' and that satisfied him."

Klein said he agreed to serve as a consultant and spokesman for the movie, and later read the script and saw it. Klein had no comments on the film's poor production values, which border on comical, its bad acting, or clunky story line, and he contends such controversial tactics can be effective with Muslims.

"[Muslims] were to come to the theater, and they titled it Innocent Bin Laden," Klein said. "[That] was the original name. That's the one they put up at the theater when I went to look at it. The idea was to bring these young murderous thugs into this theater thinking they were going to cheer and hurray for Osama but in fact what they were going to see was that their prophet … the model of their ethics, was a crazy man and a murderer and pedophile. And perhaps we could get one to five of these people to turn and do what a number of former terrorists have done - become very influential in the United States and Canada and Western Europe in reaching out to terrorist to try to get them to stop what they're doing. That was our intent."

Klein said he and Bacile (Nakoula) were surprised that the film clip could spark violence in the Arab world, but he dismissed charges that he and the film's makers are responsible: "This issue of provoking or inciting … to me I don't like that. I think it's politically correct, it's cowardice, and I don't understand it."

He attributed the violence that led to the murders at the Benghazi consulate to "gross negligence" by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Her job was to protect those people." Klein said. "She did not. She is guilty. The blood is on her hands."

But with violence surging in the Muslim heartland, Klein has been forced to take seriously the consequences of his involvement. On Wednesday he said he had a bomb threat at his office, and he now is receiving protection, along with questioning, from the FBI.

With reporting by Jill Nelson.

This article was updated Friday, Sept. 14, at 2:15 p.m.

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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