The tight-knit world of American anti-Islam activists in the U.S. discounted the idea that a video depicting the prophet Muhammad in an absurd and negative light played a significant role in inciting violence in Egypt and Libya during conversations with BuzzFeed today.
"I don’t think the movie is what kicked it off," said David Reaboi, communications director for the Center for Security Policy run by Frank Gaffney. Reaboi said that his organization believes that the attacks were coordinated by Egypt's Al-Noor party in order to get a plank onto the Egyptian constitution about outlawing blasphemy.
The protests that led to the violence of Tuesday night were over the offensive anti-Muslim movie, but U.S. officials said today that the attacks on the embassies, which took four American lives including that of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, may have been organized beforehand by extremist groups in the region. The AP has reported that the video is linked to Coptic Christian activists in Los Angeles.
Reaboi said he hadn't fully seen the film, or the 14-minute trailer available online: "First couple minutes was all that I could take, at least from a production quality standpoint."
"There's no shortage of pretext for Islamic rage based on Sharia blasphemy laws," Reaboi said. "I don’t think the pretext is important as the doctrinal element when it comes to what makes these people become violent and crazy."
"The fact is it has nothing to do with this movie," said Robert Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch and ally of Pamela Geller. "This is obviously orchestrated and they’re looking for someone to get mad at about it."
"They want us to think it’s our responsibility when they fly into murderous rages," Spencer said. Spencer said he didn't believe that outside events, like the film or like the Danish cartoons of a few years ago, "incite at all."
Daniel Pipes, the founder of the Middle East Forum, said that "The anger is there. But it’s more than anger. It is a deliberate effort since 1989 to tell us in the west that we have to play by the rules of Sharia."
Pipes distanced himself from the kind of rhetoric in the film, saying "People like me don’t touch that stuff. We have no interest in – we don’t say things like Muhammad is a pedophile. We don’t say things like Islam is a cancer. There’s a distinction between people who despise Islam, and people like me who despise Islamism."
The video in question has been linked to Florida pastor Terry Jones, who promoted it and who gained notoreity two years ago when he announced plans to burn copies of the Quran in his Gainesville church.
Jones' office would not put BuzzFeed on the phone with him or answer specific questions, but they sent a statement.
"The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Muhammad that are possibly not widely known," Jones says in the statement. "The recent outbreak of violence and deaths is not because of the film, it is not because of the activities that we have done and that we will continue to do. These types of violent activities must be totally rejected. These people must be held accountable. It again shows the true nature of Islam."
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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