The New York Times has the first jailhouse interview with the man behind the now infamous anti-Islamic video that sparked protests all over the Muslim world, and he admits he's not the least bit sorry about all the trouble he caused. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula—or Sam Bassil or Mark Basseley Youssef, depending on when you ask him—is in jail now because of a parole violation, but there's no question that he would have escaped authorities attention were it not for the 14-minute YouTube video called "Innocence of Muslims" that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a violent, perverted terrorist and led to, among other things, a mob storming the American embassy in Cairo.
The warden at his detention center actually denied the Times request to interview Nakoula in person, so he delivered written responses through his lawyer instead. But the story does provide plenty of new background about how he duped actors and financial backers into helping to make his movie. (There is allegedly a full feature-length version of it.)
Two threads emerge from the interviews: one is that Nakoula has no regrets about revealing "the actual truth" about Islam. Nakoula says that he has been opposed to Muslim extremism for year, but "became even more upset and enraged" after the Fort Hood massacre, perpetrated by a Muslim soldier on a U.S. Army base in 2009.
The second, is the tremendous about of lies and misinformation that seem to surround all of Nakoula's life. Sources seem to agree that he was born in Egypt and is a member of the Coptic Church, but he told federal authorities that he came to the U.S. as member of Egypt's Olympic Soccer team in 1984, which has no record of him. His first attempt to film the movie—originally called "Desert Warriors"—was put off after he told the crew he had cancer. He never had cancer, but was going to jail for bank fraud. He claimed the film had a $5 million budget and was financed by Jewish backers, but it was closer to $80,000 and paid for mostly a group called "Media for Christ," which knew the true nature of the film and called it "historically accurate."
There are plenty of other bizarre details (like his apparently failed cigarette re-selling business), but the most telling might be the ham-fisted way he duped all the actors in secretly blaspheming an entire religion. He gave them all a script for a "sword and sandals epic" about a bloodthirsty villain named 'George," then he simply went back later and replaced all the audio with "Muhammad," any time some said George."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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