California cleric inspired anti-Islam filmmakers

The ideology behind "Innocence of Muslims" can be traced back to a Coptic cleric in California

Published September 18, 2012 10:43PM (EDT)

According to a report from The Daily, the ideological views which inspired the film, "Innocence of Muslims," can be traced to one California-based Egyptian Coptic Cleric, Father Zakaria Botros Heinen.

"Father Zakaria Botros Heinen didn’t work on the film, or have a hand in producing it, but his sermons and lectures inspired those who did," The Daily reports. However, the publication's interview with the cleric establishes a loose link to the film, cited as the spark for anti-American riots throughout the Middle East.

The report notes:

Botros claimed he only learned about the film after it was uploaded in Arabic on the web and sparked outrage on September, 11. But the nonprofit responsible for the film’s production, Media for Christ, based in Duarte, Calif., often lifts from Botros’ speeches and published works from his website,

According to the Los Angeles Times, Steve Klein, a fundamentalist Christian who helped write the film, has called Botros “a close friend” and compares him with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., while Joseph Nassralla, head of Media for Christ, directs visitors from his website to Botros’ page. And Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who put the film together, has spoken of his reverence for Botros’ preaching. Botros remembers Nakoula signing on to his online chat room and asking critical questions about Islam in 2005.

By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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