September 13, 2012; Source: Whittier Daily News

According to Duarte, Calif. City Manager Darrell George, the Duarte-based Christian nonprofit Media for Christ took out a permit for the production of an anti-Islamic film that has been blamed as the key factor behind the killing of U.S. diplomats at the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. The shockwaves of reaction to the film have also included a protest at the American Embassy in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, where protesters tore down the American flag in favor of an Islamic banner. Hundreds of protesters have also gathered at the U.S. Embassy in Sanna, Yemen, and smaller protests have been reported in Bangladesh and Iran. Today, in Afghanistan, CNN reports “hundreds of demonstrators burned a U.S. flag and chanted ‘Death to America’ and ‘We condemn the film.’”

“We cannot accept any insult to our prophet,” said one Yemeni protester recently interviewed by the Washington Post. “It’s a red line.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the violent responses and anger that it has generated, no one is acknowledging full responsibility for the film, but the Los Angeles Times reports that the forces behind the film, Innocence of Muslims, are “Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, the president of Media for Christ, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon from Cerritos” and that “[b]oth men appeared to have gone into hiding Thursday.” It seems those who allegedly created the hateful film may not be feeling quite so brave now that innocent people are getting killed over it.

Nassralla founded Media for Christ to spread the Gospel, according to public records, but in recent years, he has reportedly moved toward publicly criticizing Islam; in a 2010 speech, Nassralla spoke against plans to build a mosque near the spot where the World Trade Center once sat, imploring listeners to “stop the Islamicization of America.” Nakoula is reportedly an ex-convict Coptic Christian; he was convicted on drug charges in 1997 and charges related to an identity theft scam in 2010 but was released last year.

The film is shameful. The murders committed in revenge for it are utterly horrible. Whether it sparked a violent reaction or not, if this kind of film was produced by a nonprofit religious entity, it should be very troublesome—no matter which religion it denigrated—to all religious people and to the entire nonprofit sector. Let’s hope advocates for peace and tolerance of religious diversity will prevail. –Mike Keefe-Feldman