And the Academy Award Goes To…

Posted on September 19, 2012 by

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Not this time, Sam Bacile.

On the early morning of September 12, 2012, a “Breaking News” alert flashed across my iPhone from Fox News. The grim headlines told of the murders of Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other American officials during an attack in Benghazi, Libya. Only the day before this unfortunate incident, the United States had marked the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Naturally, my immediate reaction was, “Did they plan these attacks for the commemoration of 9/11?”  I am certain that I, along with the majority of Americans, immediately assumed the timing of the attack was not just coincidental.

However, as I dove further into the issue and began reading about the motives behind this outrage in Libya, rumors about an anti-Islam film began surfacing all over the media. This really grabbed my attention. I couldn’t help but wonder what the film’s message was, and who was responsible for it? Also, could an element of pop culture such as this really be held responsible for an uprising this extreme?  Or were the members of a hardcore Islamist militia known for its sympathies to al-Qaida and hatred directed to the U.S. trying to instill a harsh reminder of the eery feeling of 9/11?

Sure enough, as if the relationship between the West and the Middle East wasn’t strained enough, fuel was added to the fire; the spark appeared to be a film titled “Innocence of Muslims”.
A trailer of the film had been released as early as July 2 on YouTube. The man supposedly behind the production and script was Sam Bacile, a filmmaker whose exact identity and background remained a mystery for several days. During an interview via telephone with the Associated Press, Bacile claimed he was a Jewish writer and director born in Israel.  However, a Christian activist with ties to production of the film quickly responded with a claim that Sam Bacile was just an alias.  Federal officials soon discovered that “Sam Bacile” was really Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon with a history of using aliases to hide his actions.

Out of curiosity, I decided to see the trailer for myself. I was shocked at how poorly made it was; the quality reminded me of a cheap and amateur skit. Every aspect of the film (if it can even be classified as one) was downright pathetic- the makeup, the costumes, the lighting, the editing, etc. The overdubbing was so blatantly obvious, it is clear that the cast thought they were performing for an entirely different plotline. Although Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, or “Sam Bacile”, claims that it took five million dollars to create the film, I can’t help but wonder how the production crew possibly stuck that amount of money into this project. “Innocence of Muslims” is in essence a poorly made stunt with a loathsome message. A project that is such an insult to filmmaking and artistic expression shouldn’t really be deserving of this magnitude of attention and hype in the first place.

To bash Mohammed, the messenger of Islam, is essentially ridiculing the morals and central values of 1.5 Muslims across the globe. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula made the prophet look like a homosexual, ruthless killer, and pedophile; more upsetting was his abuse of the most basic freedom in the United States. There is no doubt he would face a ruthless punishment in his homeland, Egypt. In the United States, it is not considered illegal to express one’s opinion about religion; but with the violent and widespread implications that have occurred, it seems that some justice must be served. I am anticipating the way in which administration handle this; they must show outrage and disappointment of this ruthless act, but also protect and preserve the freedom of speech.

It has now been a week since the outrage began, and the death toll related to violence against the film has reached 19. The end may not be near. Anger from Muslims has spread to Afghanistan, Indonesia, the West Bank, the Philippines and Yemen. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader in Hezbollah, declared on Tuesday that “dangerous, very dangerous” global repercussions would occur if the anti-Islam film is released in its entirety. The head of a powerful Lebanese Shi’ite group gathered tens of thousands in protest against the film, which he referred to as the “worst attack ever on Islam”. The world may not have to worry about an entire feature film being released; it appears that the fourteen minute trailer may be the extent of the damage.

Whether Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and the “Innocence of Muslims” can be held reprehensible for the recent strikes and violent rages in the Middle East or not, perhaps the repercussions of the film can be a lesson for us all. The privilege of the freedom of speech is indeed a privilege. I believe the Indian Hindu monk Swami Vivekanada said it best: “We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true.” Differences in religion across the globe are inevitable, but we must strive toward a universal brotherhood where the ultimate goal is directed to the same God.

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