An American-Israeli filmmaker went into hiding Tuesday after his film attacking Islam's Prophet Muhammad sparked angry assaults by ultra-conservative Muslims on US diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya, where the US ambassador and three embassy staff were reportedly killed.
The film was initially believed to be produced by members of the Coptic Diaspora. Maurice Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian living in the US, and controversial Pastor Terry Jones, who is known for his burning of the Quran, are believed to have been promoting the film but were not involved in its production, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal.
Speaking by phone from an undisclosed location, writer and director Sam Bacile remained defiant, saying Islam is a cancer and that he intended his film to be a provocative political statement condemning the religion.
Protesters angered over Bacile's film opened fire on and burned down the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing the US ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff on Tuesday. In Egypt, protesters scaled the walls of the US embassy in Cairo and replaced an American flag with an Islamic banner.
Bacile, a 56-year-old California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the film will help his native land by exposing Islam's flaws to the world.
"Islam is a cancer, period," he repeatedly said in a solemn, accented tone.
The two-hour film, "Innocence of Muslims," cost $5 million to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors, said Bacile, who wrote and directed it.
The film claims Muhammad was a fraud. An English-language 13-minute trailer on YouTube shows an amateur cast performing a wooden dialogue of insults disguised as revelations about Muhammad, whose obedient followers are presented as a cadre of goons.
It depicts Muhammad as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.
Muslims find it offensive to depict Muhammad in any manner, let alone insult the prophet. A Danish newspaper's 2005 publication of 12 caricatures of the prophet triggered riots in many Muslim countries.
Though Bacile was apologetic about the American who was killed as a result of the outrage over his film, he blamed lax embassy security and the perpetrators of the violence.
"I feel the security system (at the embassies) is no good," said Bacile. "America should do something to change it."
The film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by someone Bacile doesn't know, but he speaks enough Arabic to confirm that the translation is accurate. It was made in three months in the summer of 2011, with 59 actors and about 45 people behind the camera.
The full film has been shown once, to a mostly empty theatre in Hollywood earlier this year, said Bacile.