Two Canadians facing Egyptian charges in anti-Muslim film say they had nothing to do with it

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

When movies get made there's often an unseemly scramble to get named in the credits but that's not true for Nader Fawzy and Jack Attalia.

The two Canadians are scrambling to disassociate themselves from Innocence of Muslims, the incendiary anti-Islamic film that has sparked a wave of protest and death across the Muslim world.

The two men are on a list of people subject to arrest warrants issued by Egypt's prosecutor general. Several Coptic Christians, mainly living in the United States and Florida pastor Terry Jones are accused of offending Islam, insulting the Prophet Mohammed, inciting sectarian strife and jeopardizing Egypt's peace and independence.

The crudely made film — only a lengthy trailer has shown up on YouTube — was produced in California. It depicts Mohammed as a liar, womanizer and pedophile.

It triggered demonstrations in Egypt and many other countries with Muslim populations. U.S. authorities believe terrorists used such a protest in Benghazi, Libya, as cover to attack the consulate there, killing the American ambassador and three staff members.

[ Related: Pakistan: 15 killed in anti-Islam film protests ]

According to the Huffington Post, the eight people on the prosecutor general's list could face the death penalty if convicted.

Among those charged is the film's ostensible producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt living in California, Jones, who said he was contacted to promote the film, and Morris Sadek, a conservative Copt living in the U.S. who promoted the movie on his web site.

But both Canadians insist they had nothing to do with the film and Fawzy, an expatriate Egyptian, said he had actually denounced it in a statement on behalf of the Middle East Christian Association, which he founded.

Both say they've been targeted because they have been outspoken activists against persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

"I think the new Islamic regime in Egypt, they are trying to terror[ize] all the Coptic activists outside of Egypt to let them shut up, to keep quiet," Fawzy told The Canadian Press.

Attalia, also originally from Egypt, told CP Arabic media have identified at least 10 others as being subject to arrest, including him.

"I am on the first list," Attalla, who wouldn't say where he lives, told CP. "They consider us the most dangerous people because we are trying to save the lives of the Christian minority in Egypt in a very safe, very civilized way.

"We just write and we talk on the TV. That's all what we do. We never carry a weapon like them, we never threaten anybody, we never talk about religion or produce a movie. We don't have any money to do that."

[ Related: California judge rules anti-Islam film can stay on YouTube ]

The two Canadians are less worried about facing prosecution in Egypt — neither plans to return to their homeland — than the possibility senior Muslim clerics will put a bounty on their heads.

"You never know who is crazy, can come to shoot me for no reason," Fawzy, who lives in suburban Toronto, told CP.

"There is a lot of people in Canada that can do it … and in the [United] States, they're willing to do anything for their religion. So I can't say because I'm in Canada that I'm fully safe."

Both have spoken to their respective members of Parliament about their safety concerns. Fawzy's MP, Liberal Jim Karygiannis, said Ottawa must challenge Egypt to give reasons for issuing arrest warrants against the two Canadians.

"The Canadian government must ask the Egyptian government for the evidence and, if the evidence is found to be insufficient, the Canadian government must demand that [the names] be removed from the list," he said, adding both men should also tell police about their safety worries.