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Police probe threats, fatwa against 'Innocence of Muslims' actors

September 21, 2012 |  7:17 am

Los Angeles-area police agencies are monitoring threats made against actors and other associated with  the anti-Muslim movie "Innocence of Muslims."

Law enforcement sources told The Times that officials are aware of the threats but declined to say what specific actions were being taken. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing, said many actors and crew members live in the Los Angeles area and that several agencies have been notified about the threats.

An Egyptian cleric has called for a fatwa against all those associated with the movie, which has sparked protests across the Middle East.

PHOTOS: Films courting controversy

Ahmad Fouad Ashoush issued the religious edict this week via jihadist Internet forums. In addition to producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the fatwa is directed at everyone involved with the film including the cast and crew of the film.

"I issue a fatwa and call on the Muslim youth in America and Europe to do this duty, which is to kill the director, the producer and the actors and everyone who helped and promoted the film," the edict reads.

He urged Muslim youth in America and Europe to "teach those filthy lowly ones a lesson that all the monkeys and pigs in America and Europe will understand" for insulting the name of the prophet Muhammad.

TIMELINE: 'Innocence of Muslims' unrest

Ashoush is respected in Egypt's Salafist jihadist community but does not have a wide following. Ashoush, who was believed to be close to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda's current No. 1, Ayman Zawahiri, heads the relatively obscure Jihad Group.

Within Sunni Islam, there is no rigid framework or control for who can call himself a sheik and issue fatwas. While someone who studies at Al Azhar University in Cairo, the premier religious center for learning among Sunni Muslims, is regarded as learned, in effect, anyone can declare himself a sheik and  is free to issue rulings.

Whether anyone will abide by them is another matter. Senior mainstream Sunni clerics have urged restraint in regard to the film. The ability of anyone to offer religious rulings stands in sharp to the hierarchy of Shiite Islam, where only those who have attained the highest clerical rank after studying for years can issue decrees to followers.

The test in this case is whether the cleric's fatwa now circulating in chatrooms is taken seriously inside the jihadist community, particularly inside the United States.

On Thursday, a Los Angeles County judge refused to grant an emergency request by an actress who starred in “Innocence of Muslims” to have footage of the film pulled from YouTube.

Superior Court Judge Luis Lanvin said Cindy Lee Garcia had not demonstrated "a likelihood to prevail on the merits" of her request. Attorneys for Google, which owns YouTube, had opposed pulling the video clip, but Garcia's attorney said she would continue to seek having it removed.

Garcia sued the film’s producer and YouTube, claiming that clips from the controversial anti-Islam movie have led to death threats against her.

In a complaint alleging fraud, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress filed Wednesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, the actress said that after scenes from “Innocence of Muslims”  posted on YouTube sparked Middle East protests early last week, she was subjected to “credible death threats” and was no longer permitted to provide child care for her grandchildren.

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--Andrew Blankstein and Ned Parker

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