Terry Jones Comments Linked to Egypt, Libya Attacks
Editor's note: The Associated Press has uncovered the identity of the film's real creator, a Coptic activist in California convicted of bank fraud.
Terry Jones, pastor of a small fundamentalist church in Florida, drew condemnation from evangelical leaders when he burned copies of the Qur'an and inspired deadly riots in Afghanistan. Now, Jones' comments about a new amateur film are being cited as the fuel that sparked attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
However, it remains unclear whether Jones knew of the film at all until notified of its existence by the New York Times after the attacks.
Protesters cited the film "Innocence of Muslims" as the reason for their attacks, which killed three U.S. foreign service agents and Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Observers are bracing for similar riots to break out in Afghanistan.
A trailer for the video, made by a California man named Sam Bacile, had been released on YouTube, and the New York Times reports that it "opens with scenes of Egyptian security forces standing idle as Muslims pillage and burn the homes of Egyptian Christians. Then it cuts to cartoonish scenes depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a child of uncertain parentage, a buffoon, a womanizer, a homosexual, a child molester and a greedy, bloodthirsty thug."
However, the trailer gained wider attention when Jones promoted it on Sept. 11 alongside his own "International Judge Muhammad Day."
President Barack Obama condemned the attacks, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement that "inflammatory material posted on the Internet" does not justify "violent acts of this kind."
The World Evangelical Alliance condemned the video. "We completely denounce the practice of Insulting and slandering adherents of other religions or their founders. Such inflammatory statements invariably arouse suspicion and confusion", says secretary general Geoff Tunnicliffe. "We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters in countries with Muslim majority populations in condemning both the video and the violence that has followed its publication."
Steven Martin, executive director for the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, released a statement Thursday saying Jones knowingly incites violence.
"Sam Bacile and Terry Jones must be stopped. Evangelicals are the ones who can stop them," stated Martin, citing the example of how evangelical pastors worked to defuse Jones's previous Qur'an burning.