Anti-Islam Filmmaker Mark Youssef Goes Free From Prison

Egyptian's 'Innocence of Muslims' Sparked Unlikely Global Mayhem

Anger Spread: The maker of a crude anti-Islam film correctly judged that claiming it was made by Jews would spark an explosion of outrage. He is now being released from prison on probation violations.
getty images
Anger Spread: The maker of a crude anti-Islam film correctly judged that claiming it was made by Jews would spark an explosion of outrage. He is now being released from prison on probation violations.

By Reuters

Published September 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The man behind a film that stoked anti-U.S. protests across the Muslim world was due for release from federal custody in California on Thursday after serving time for probation violations stemming from his role in making the video.

The 56-year-old Egyptian-born Coptic Christian, Mark Basseley Youssef, gained public notice for the crudely made 13-minute anti-Islam video he produced in Southern California that portrayed the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and sexual deviant.

The film, circulated online under several titles including “The Innocence of Muslims,” touched off a torrent of anti-American demonstrations in Arab and Muslim countries, where many consider any depiction of the Prophet as blasphemous.

Some early reports incorrectly claimed Jews were behind the film, leading to anti-Semitic protest.

The start of the unrest on Sept. 11, 2012, coincided with an attack on U.S. diplomatic posts in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya. Links between the Benghazi assault and Youssef’s film have since been debunked.

Youssef, a former gasoline station owner who previously served time for a 2010 bank fraud conviction, was sent back to prison last year after admitting that he breached the terms of his probation in connection with the making of the film.

Federal prosecutors insisted his arrest last September had nothing to do with the film’s content but with conduct that violated the terms of his probation, such as his use of aliases and the Internet, in the course of making the video.

Youssef, identified in some public records by his birth name, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, received a 12-month term in November, but earned credit for the six weeks he already had spent in jail since his arrest, Bureau of Prisons spokesman Chris Burke said.

After a two-month stint at the federal detention center in Los Angeles, Youssef served the bulk of his sentence, about four months, in a federal prison in La Tuna, Texas. He was transferred to an undisclosed Los Angeles-area halfway house in late May to complete his term, Burke said.

He was due to be freed from federal custody altogether on Thursday, but will remain under the supervision of probation officials for the next four years, Burke said.

American cast members said after the video came to light that they had been duped into appearing in a film they believed was supposed to be an adventure drama called “Desert Warrior.”

At least one actress sued Youssef for fraud and brought a copyright claim against YouTube, seeking a court order to force removal of the clip from the online video site, but a judge refused her request.

Youssef said in a New York Times interview last November that he made the film to reveal what he called “the actual truth” about the Prophet Mohammad and to raise awareness of violence committed “under the sign of Allah.”

But in a CNN interview last month, Youssef said he “never thought my movie can cause anyone trouble or anyone can get killed from my movie.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.