Recently much of the talk surrounding Innocence of Muslims — the movie trailer that portrays Muhammad as an idiot, womanizer, child molester, and generally vile individual — has centered on the fact that despite early reports, it is not what instigated the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya. Yet, the video did spark other deadly protests and for months its origins have remained a mystery. Now, the New York Times has managed to clear up many of the details. The paper even conducted the first interview with filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef, though he doesn’t seem all that reliable. In the course of their investigation, the Times found that Youssef told actors and crew members that they working on a film called Desert Warriors about a villain named George, said he was halting production for cancer treatments when he was really serving time for bank fraud, and claimed that the project was financed by $5 million in donations from Jewish donors, when it was really funded by $80,000 raised by his ex-wife’s Egyptian family and fellow Coptic Christians. Plus, even the name he was jailed under, Mark Basseley Youssef, is no longer his legal name.
Youssef has used a variety of aliases in his career as “a former gas station manager, bong salesman, methamphetamine ingredient supplier and convicted con man,” as the Times puts it, and as it turns out his name is now Ebrahem Fawzy Youssef. His lawyer claims that he didn’t tell the authorities because he didn’t realize that his 2009 request for a name change had been finalized.
As it turns out the “Sam Bacile” who promoted the film online isn’t Youssef, but his 21-year-old son Abanob Basseley Nakoula. In addition to helping his father translate his script from Arabic to English, Nakoula posted the film on YouTube, created a Facebook account, and convinced his dad that the trailer would never be shown on TV, since networks tend not to run offensive, fourteen-minute commercials. “My dad is not an evil man. He has had a hard life,” says Nakoula. “He did something — the movie, something he felt strongly about — that was not frowned upon by the Constitution. He would always say, ‘Don’t fight Muslims; fight their ideology.’”
In his first public comments on the movie — which apparently does exists as a full-length film — Youssef listed a number of “atrocities” supposedly committed by Muslims and said he must spread “the actual truth” about the prophet. “I thought, before I wrote this script,” he said, “that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in.” So in other words, no, he isn’t sorry that he made the video.