In interviews given early this week, the filmmaker behind the crude anti-Muslim film that sparked riots in the Middle East identified himself as an Israeli Jew.
But the AP revealed that Nikoula Bassely Nikoula was in fact a member of the Coptic Church, the Egyptian branch of the Christian Orthodox faith.
Business Insider spoke with two Coptic pastors in Los Angeles County, where Bassely lives. They told us that Nikoula was not an active member of the Coptic community.
Fr. Mikhail Mauritius said that a man he knew called Nikoula “came very infrequently” to church services. However, he added that the man had been affiliated with the church for between 10 and 15 years.
“He was one of the people who has lived here for a longtime,” Mauritius said.
He also said he believed the man ran a tobacco store, and was rumoured among parishioners to have gone to jail.
Nikoula plead no contest to bank fraud charges in 2010, and the AP reports one of the aliases used by during a string of identity thefts was “PJ Tobacco.”
Mauritius said another rumour was that the man he knew called Nikoula had cancer, and that he stopped attending the church altogether three years ago.
He condemned Nikoula’s film as not Christian.
Earlier today, the Coptic Diocese of Los Angeles issued a statement blasting the film.
…the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California & Hawaii strongly rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the Diaspora in the latest production of an inflammatory movie about the prophet of Islam. The producers of this movie should be responsible for their actions. The name of our blessed parishioners should not be associated with the efforts of individuals who have ulterior motives.
Reports indicate there are at least two active TV and film production units in Southern California specializing in Arab Christian broadcasts.
The Long Beach Press’ Brenda Gazzar and Steve Scauzillo write that a firm called Media for Christ took out a film permit to shoot the controversial film, “Innocence of Muslims.”
A Media for Christ employee reached by phone declined participating in the production.
“We didn’t film it and we’re against the movie because we respect all the religions,” said the man who declined to give his name.
Finally, they say that Steve Klein, who is reported to have consulted on “Innocence of Muslims,” said he has taped a television show called “Wake Up America” on The Way TV, which offers Arabic Christian programming and shares a listed address with Media for Christ.
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