Voices from Russia

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Local Copts Tired of Being Linked to Arrested Anti-Muslim Filmmaker


Fr Mauritius Mikhail of St George Coptic Orthodox Church in Bellflower CA acknowledged that the man known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula attended occasional services at his church three years ago. However, he added that most parishioners didn’t know Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt who also uses the name Mark Youssef. Fr Mauritius said that the man’s arrest this week on a probation violation didn’t surprise him, and he suspects that other Coptic Christians won’t be, either, saying, “I haven’t spoken, because his arrest is something very recent, I heard about it from the news just yesterday. However, the anger, or the disturbance, wasn’t because he was arrested, but because the movie itself was something very inappropriate”.

Two weeks of news headlines that connect Nakoula and his incendiary film, Innocence of Muslims, to Southland Copts have shed unwelcome light on a small low-profile immigrant religious group. Shortly after an Arabic-dubbed trailer for the film surfaced on YouTube, its producer also claimed that Israelis helped to finance the project. There’s no evidence to support that assertion. Fr Joseph Boules, a priest at Ss Mary and Verena Church in Anaheim CA, said that he’s had to explain repeatedly to journalists that the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles never endorsed anti-Muslim rhetoric like that found in Nakoula’s film.

Fr Joseph said that news outlets in Egypt and in the USA are equally responsible for offering false representations of Coptic Christianity, saying, “Everyone’s condemned the movie. It isn’t worthy of this attention at all. If we hold people responsible for their actions, then, we do away with the labels… they have no place in the conversation. However, what was behind putting these two words before his name, Coptic Christian? So, for that, I do hold the media responsible to a large extent”. Fr Joseph said that the intense media attention upset many of his parishioners, but he added that the opportunity Copts now have to explain their faith better may turn out, in the long run, to be a “blessing”.

28 September 2012

Ruxandra Guidi

Leslie Berestein Rojas

89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio


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