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Anti-Muslim film poster in Hollywood surprised locals [PHOTO]

September 14, 2012 | 12:05 pm

Innocence of Muslims film poster
Los Angeles tour guide Brian Donnelly and his girlfriend were strolling through Hollywood in June when an anti-Muslim movie poster at the Vine Theater stopped them in their tracks.

The sign hawked a one-night showing of the film "Innocence of Bin Laden,'' and included a picture of the bearded terrorist. A trailer of the low-budget movie, posted on YouTube, this week has incited violence across the Arab world.

"I thought it was a joke at first, in all honesty,'' said Donnelly, a guide for Dearly Departed Tours, which shuttles tourists to famous crime scenes across Los Angeles. "I didn't know if it was a good thing or a bad thing. We didn't know what it was about because we can't read Arabic.''

TIMELINE: 'Innocence of Muslims' unrest

The poster was written largely in Arabic, and is translated:

Glad tidings to the Muslim and Arab community, with the occasion of holy Ramadan upon us we would like to announce the movie of the 21st century: "Innocence of Bin Laden".

For the first time in the history of international cinema, my Muslim brother you are about to witness the true terrorist [and] contains the evidence of his condemnation.

The terrorist who killed our children in Palestine and our brethren in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Donnelly, who has a blog on Hollywood history called www.donnellywood.com, said he and his girlfriend, Beverly Baker, live in a neighborhood near the theater and often walk around town checking out the sights.

Baker described the theater as "pretty skeezy" and said it is usually closed. Still, seeing the name and picture of Osama bin Laden plastered on the theater was unsettling.

"It just literally stopped us in our tracks. The poster wasn't huge, but it was enough to catch our eye,'' said Baker, a digital media consultant. "We avoided the area. We didn't know what was going to happen. Were they trying to incite a riot?''

Baker said they spotted the poster on June 18, and later saw an abbreviate title of the film on the theater's marquee on June 28. It was up so long that they were surprised "no one raised a ruckus,'' she said.

At least one person tried to raise an alarm about the film. Longtime City Hall gadfly John Walsh spoke to the Los Angeles City Council on June 29, and urged them to take seriously the threat it presented.

Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, the president of the Duarte-based charity Media for Christ, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon from Cerritos, have emerged as the forces behind the film, which was retitled "Innocence of Muslims."

Media for Christ, whose stated mission is to "glow Jesus' light" to the world, obtained permits to shoot the movie in August 2011, and Nakoula provided his home as a set and paid the actors, according to government officials and those involved in the production.

Both men are Egyptian immigrants and appear to have gone into hiding as the furor over the film has grown in the Middle East.

Hemet insurance agent Steve Klein, who worked as a consultant on the film and is founder of the group Courageous Christians United, said the intent of film was to enrage and flush out "suspected terrorists" who might be living in the United States.

"We passed out fliers at mosques around California where we knew there was a small percentage of terrorists,'' said Klein, a Vietnam veteran that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers a right-wing extremist. "And the idea was to locate, which we did, those folks who believed Osama Bin Laden was a great guy, and to try to get them to come to the movie.''

Klein said he was parked outside the movie theater when the film screened on June 30.

"The place was totally empty,'' he said.

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-- Phil Willon

Photo: The anti-Muslim film that has sparked protests across the Middle East first screened in Hollywood in June. Credit: Brian Donnelly and Beverly Baker / Special to the Times

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