Free Speech, Religion Clash Over Anti-Islam Film

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press
The U.S. government

A Yemeni protestor, left, holds a white flag with Islamic inscription in Arabic that reads, "No God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet," in front of the U.S. embassy during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Dozens of protesters gather in front of the US Embassy in Sanaa to protest against the American film "The Innocence of Muslims" deemed blasphemous and Islamophobic. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

The U.S. government's protection of free speech rights is clashing with religion abroad in the case of an Egyptian-born American citizen whose anti-Islamic film has sparked protests in the Middle East.

Federal officials say Nakoula Bassely Nakoula is behind the film "Innocence of Muslims," a crude production ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad.

His case invites scrutiny because the free speech Nakoula exercised with the film has far-reaching and violent implications.

The U.S. government condemns the film's message, though in America, making a movie that disparages a religious figure is not illegal.

The situation also raises questions about how far the government can and should go to protect someone who exercises their First Amendment right.

Legal experts say the government has to strike a balance by offering some but not unlimited help.


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