Fiery Coptic Cleric Influenced Figures Behind Anti-Islamic Film
The Southern California men behind the anti-Islamic movie that has enraged the Arab world were influenced by a fiery Coptic cleric who owns a home in Huntington Beach and is known around the globe for insults to the prophet Muhammad that are strikingly similar to those in the film.
The preacher, Zakaria Botros Henein, sometimes called Islam’s Public Enemy No. 1, teaches that Muhammad was a necrophile, a homosexual and a pedophile.
He has not been linked to “Innocence of Muslims,” but the three disparate figures who have emerged as key forces behind the movie are all devotees of his views.
Steve Klein, a militant Christian who worked on the script, has hailed Botros as “a close friend” and compared him favorably to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Joseph Nassralla, the head of a Christian charity in Duarte where part of the movie was shot, directs visitors from his website to FatherZakaria.net, Botros’ site.
And Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who paid the actors and organized the production, spoke openly of his devotion to the cleric while in federal prison the year before the August 2011 shoot.
Botros, 77, could not be reached for comment. His son, Benyamin, said his father was traveling and unavailable.
“I cannot tell you where he is because his life is in danger,” the son said. He added that he did not think his father had any involvement in the film.
The elder Botros, a bearded man who wears a large cross and a black robe, defended the movie in his broadcast Friday on the Arabic satellite TV station Alfady and criticized the violent reaction to the film.
He dissected more than a dozen scenes from the movie trailer, reading from the Koran and other Islamic teachings to back up allegations in the film critical of Muhammad and Islam.
“The movie is all things we said in the past,” he said.