California Coptic Christians say they are shocked that an Egyptian Coptic immigrant appears to be the producer of an inflammatory film that has sparked violent protests across the Muslim world. They say the film violates the tenets of their faith.
On Sunday, festival day at a Coptic church that is home to Christian immigrants from Egypt, Bishop Serapion performed baptisms.
But on the feast day of the one congregation's patron saints, thoughts turned to the homeland, which last week erupted in protests that have spread across the Muslim world.
Tuesday, a violent assault in Libya claimed the lives of four American diplomats, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a respected figure.
The protests were sparked by a film that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. It was privately produced, but demonstrators blame the U.S. government for it. The California man thought to be behind the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, says he is a Coptic Christian. He has served prison time for bank fraud and authorities questioned him on Saturday about possible violations of his parole. The movie, widely seen by Muslims as offensive, is not illegal under the free speech provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Los Angeles Coptic Orthodox Bishop Serapion and other leaders of his church condemn the film.
“Because we believe that is against our Christian faith, which we are against insulting the feelings of people,” he explained.
The film is widely rejected within the Coptic community, says church member Maher Said.
“We don't say bad things about any religion,” insisted Said.
He says he is worried that some Muslims have unjustly blamed all Coptic Christians in the West for the film.
These church members say they do not know alleged filmmaker Nakoula, but that the U.S. Coptic community has nothing to do with the movie, and that whoever produced it does not represent their faith, which demands respect for all religions.
Photo Gallery: Anti-US Protests
An Egyptian protester throws back a tear gas canister towards the riot police during clashes near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, September 14, 2012.
Sudanese policemen try to disperse protesters demonstrating outside the German Embassy in Khartoum, September 14, 2012.
Sudanese women chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, Sept. 14, 2012.
A protester sprays graffiti on a wall during a protest march to the U.S. embassy in Sanaa September 13, 2012.
Palestinians burn U.S. and Israeli flags during a protest against a film produced in the U.S. that they said that was insulting to Prophet Muhammad, in Gaza City, September 14, 2012.
A boy holds a toy gun during a protest in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh near Sidon, Lebanon, September 14, 2012.
Protesters chant slogans during a march to the U.S. Embassy in Doha, September 14, 2012.
Shi'ite Muslim supporters of the Imamia Student Organization (ISO) shout anti-American slogans during a protest rally in Islamabad, September 14, 2012.
Bangladeshi Muslims shout slogans as they participate in a protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Sept. 14, 2012.
A group of Kenyan muslims burn the U.S. flag following afternoon prayers outside the Sakina Jamia Mosque in the port city of Mombasa, Sept. 14, 2012.