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Blasphemy riots: less about theology, more about power plays

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In this instance, the offending material appears to be an amateurish 14-minute YouTube clip that portrays Muhammad as a bumbling philanderer and child molester who makes up his religion on the fly to suit his own whims and incites his followers to unrestrained violence. The clip is purportedly taken from a full-length film that the filmmaker, a man claiming to be an Israeli Jew by the name of Sam Bacile, said cost $5 million and was funded by some 100 Jewish donors. 

But there is mysteriously little proof that Mr. Bacile, who told the Associated Press he was a California-based property developer, is who he says he is. The Israeli government has said it knows of no citizen by that name, and there is no trace of a Sam Bacile in US White Pages or the movie database IMDb.com. A colleague of his interviewed by The Atlantic said Bacile was not Israeli, “most likely” not Jewish, and was using a pseudonym.

But whoever was behind it, the film – whose quality suggests a far lower budget, it should be noted – was clearly meant to incite a response, just as the Danish cartoons did. 

“Sadly, we had idiots on our side take the bait hook, line, and sinker,” says Arsalan Iftikhar, a Muslim commentator and author of “Islamic Pacifism: Global Muslims in the Post-Osama Era.” [Editor's note: The original version misstated the title of Mr. Iftikhar's book.]

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