A blurred reality

Fuming for two months in a jail cell here, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has had plenty of time to reconsider the wisdom of making Innocence of Muslims, his crude YouTube movie trailer depicting Prophet Muhammad in poor light.

Does Nakoula now regret the footage?

Not at all. In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called "the actual truth".

"I thought, before I wrote this script," he said, "that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in."

In explaining his reasons for the film, Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian born in Egypt, cited the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, as a prime example of the violence committed "under the sign of Allah." His anger seemed so intense over the years that even from a federal prison in 2010, he followed the protests against the building of an Islamic centre and mosque near Ground Zero in New York as he continued to work on his movie script.

Until now, only the barest details were known about the making of the film that inspired international outrage. But a longer, more intricate and somewhat surreal story emerges from interviews with Nakoula, church and law enforcement officials and more than a dozen people who worked on the movie. Together, they paint a picture of a financially desperate man with a penchant for fiction who was looking to give meaning to a life in shambles.

There is a dispute about how important the video was in provoking the terrorist assault on the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans. Militants interviewed at the scene said they were unaware of the video until a protest in Cairo called it to their attention. But the video led to protests across the globe—in Yemen, Morocco, Iran, Tunisia, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, Indonesia and Malaysia.

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