Many Americans are baffled at how a low-budget, horribly produced, vaguely pornographic, Islam-defaming movie that almost nobody had heard of on Sept. 10 became the flashpoint for dangerous, sometimes deadly riots around the world starting Sept. 11. And not even the whole movie — just a 14-minute clip uploaded to YouTube, one of a gazillion clips that litter the videographic graveyard at the popular website. There are lots of unanswered questions surrounding the movie, Innocence of Muslims, and its fallout, but it's clear that the eruption was months in the making. Here, a look at some key dates in the saga of the clip viewed around the world:
The only known full screening of Innocence of Muslims is held at Hollywood's Vine Theatre, according to the Los Angeles Times. The L.A. Times' source, an unidentified police officer who spoke with The Daily Beast, and Steve Klein, a Christian anti-Islam activist who advised on the film, all agree that almost nobody attended the screening.
A Los Angeles blogger, John Walsh, sounds the alarm about the film, in a blog post titled "ARE MILITANT ISLAMISTS ABOUT TO GATHER ON HOLLYWOOD BLVD.?" Two days later, at a Los Angeles City Council meeting, he repeats his warning: "A group has rented the Vine Street theater to show a video entitled Innocence of Bin Laden. We have no idea what this group is."
A second screening of the movie is planned and, reportedly, aborted. Walsh says he tried to buy a ticket but was told the screening was canceled.
A YouTube user, "Sam Bacile," uploads "Muhammad Movie Trailer," the 14-miunte clip that is all almost anyone has seen of the movie to date. Nobody pays attention.
Bacile uploads an Arabic-lanugage version of the movie trailer to YouTube, then deletes it.
Another Arabic-language version is uploaded by persons unknown.
Morris Sedak, Washington, D.C.-based Coptic Christian and anti-Islam activist, starts promoting the movie trailer to journalists and via social media, timing his pitch to Florida pastor Terry Jones' "International Judge Muhammad Day" on Sept. 11.
Egyptian television firebrand Sheik Khaled Abdalla airs part of the the Arabic version of the clip on local channel Al Nas, condemning it harshly. The trailer's YouTube view-count skyrockets.
Pastor Jones, known for threatening to burn the Koran on previous Sept. 11 anniversaries, announces that he will show part of the movie at his "Judge Muhammad Day."
Protesters decrying the movie storm the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, scaling the wall and replacing the American flag with a black one inscribed with a Muslim slogan used by militant groups. In Benghazi, Libya, a protest outside the U.S. consulate turns deadly when heavily armed militants, possibly using the protest as cover for a premeditated attack, kill U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. diplomatic personnel. "Sam Bacile" talks to the AP and Wall Street Journal, claiming to be an Israeli-American real estate developer funded by Jewish donors.
As protests spread to Tunisia and Morocco, Bacile's story starts to unravel. AP reporters and other journalists use his cell phone number and other clues to track him to the house of Coptic Christian activist Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, whose criminal history is littered with aliases very similar to "Bacile." Actors and crew from the movie say they were duped, and condemn the trailer, saying the film they made was a pre-Islam historical action flick, Desert Warrior, that was later poorly overdubbed with anti-Islam language.
Nakoula is brought in for questioning over probable violations of his parole, which forbade him from using computers and the internet without permission.
Protests have spread to at least 20 countries, including close U.S. allies like Britain, France, and Australia, and 10 protesters have been killed. In Egypt, al Qaeda–linked jihadist Ahmed Ashoush issues a fatwa against anyone who took part in the film. The blood of the participants, he says on an Islamist militant website, "should be shed, including the producer, the director, and the actors" adding, "their killing is a duty of every capable Muslim."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America
- 7 things the world's happiest people do every day
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why are so many parents being arrested?
- The rise of the global middle class is our best hope to stop climate change
- 9 things you probably didn't know about the moon
- What I learned from totally unplugging and shutting up for three days
- The biggest lesson Obama failed to learn from Bush
- Israel has only two choices: Eliminate the Palestinians or make peace
- Immigration, charity, and conservatives' unholy assault on Glenn Beck
Subscribe to the Week