Coptic Christian leaders in the Washington region and across the United States have denounced the video as highly offensive and inflammatory, and they have expressed concerns that it could further inflame Muslim sentiment against Copts in Egypt, where the large Christian minority has faced harassment and violence for years.
Federal authorities on Thursday said that a Coptic Christian man in southern California, currently on probation for financial crimes, is the key figure behind the video. According to the Associated Press, government sources said that Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, 55, was the person who wrote and directed the film.
In a statement Thursday, the senior Coptic Orthodox bishop in Los Angeles said the church “strongly rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the diaspora” into the controversy over the film. “It is not the Christian way to respond to hatred with hate.”
But Sadek, who did not return e-mails or phone messages Thursday, appears to have played a role in promoting the video, which depicts Islam’s most revered figure as a vulgar, violent womanizer swaggering in the desert with a gang of thugs. The video provoked violence Wednesday, including an assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Sadek posted the U.S.-made video, with Arabic subtitles, on the Web site of the National American Coptic Assembly, a group he heads that is based in Chantilly. Several Coptic activists also said he sent e-mails promoting the video to hundreds of people, including local followers and journalists in Egypt. However, they said that they did not believe Sadek had played a role in adding the subtitles.
Sadek’s autobiography on the Web site describes him as a lawyer and human rights activist who was born in Egypt in 1942 and now lives in the United States. It includes a lengthy resume of academic degrees, awards, bar association memberships in both countries, conferences attended and published works. It describes him as a longtime legal defender of religious freedom in Egypt with offices in Fairfax County.
Some religious activists in the Washington area said they had seen Sadek at conferences and meetings over the years, but they described him as a fringe figure whose rhetoric was stridently anti-Islamic. Coptic activists here said that he has been rejected by organized local Coptic groups but that he regularly sends out provocative e-mails attacking Islam.