Anti-Islam video puts Montreal man at risk

An Egyptian-born Canadian from Montreal's West Island says he's under threat of death after being wrongly linked to the notorious anti-Islam video that has sparked violence in the Muslim world.

Jacques Attalla says he has 'no relation' to notorious movie Innocence of Muslims

Jacques Attala says the Egyptian government is persecuting him with what amount to death threats because of his activism for the rights of Coptic Christians in Egypt. (CBC)

Two Egyptian-born Canadians, one of them from Montreal's West Island area, say they're under threat of death after being wrongly accused of playing a role in the notorious anti-Islam video that has sparked violence in the Muslim world.

Jacques Attalla, a Coptic Christian rights activist who was born in Egypt but moved to Canada 20 years ago, said his name has appeared on a list in Egyptian media of people said to have helped in the making of Innocence of Muslims.

The other Canadian named by Egyptian authorities is Nader Fawzy of Toronto.

Both men are named in arrest warrants issued by the Egyptian government, a predicament both ascribe to their campaigning on behalf of Egypt's minority Coptic population. Fawzy says the listing amounts to a fatwa, a religious edict that could prompt anyone to kill him or members of his family.

"They still want to behead me because I am one of those activists talking about the Islamicization of the country and the persecution of Christians in Egypt," Attalla said in an interview Saturday.

Egypt's prosecutor general has issued arrest warrants for a number of Coptic Christians, primarily living in the United States, for alleged involvement with the movie.

The accusations include blasphemy against Islam and against the Prophet Muhammad and inciting sectarian strife.

U.S. ambassador killed

A 14-minute promotional trailer for Innocence of Muslims appeared on YouTube in July but only stirred up a fury when a version was dubbed into Arabic. The amateur video ridicules Muhammad and sparked protests earlier this month in Egypt, Yemen and Libya — where the U.S. ambassador was killed.

The United States has identified the key figure behind the film as a Coptic Christian, and a convict, from Southern California named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.

"I don't have any relation with that," Attalla said. "I never did. I was astonished when I saw it on YouTube, and I have no relation with the people who did it. And I respect all religions."

Nader Fawzky, of Toronto, seen here with Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, left, says he is afraid for the safety of his family. (CBC)

Attalla and Fawzy fear that being named in the warrants has made them targets for Muslim extremists, who've been encouraged by senior clerics to kill all those connected to the film.

"Egypt was exporting civilization before and now it's exporting terrorism and killing and hatred," an exasperated Attalla added. "They are planning to make a religious country like Iran or Saudi Arabia, which nobody can tolerate."

Both men have contacted Canadian authorities, seeking protection.

The Foreign Affairs Department's position, in separate emails to CBC News on Friday and Saturday, was the same:  "I'm not sure it does anyone any good to discuss these issues publicly," spokesman Rick Roth wrote. "We'll certainly be working on this issue privately with the Egyptians."

Attalla said his request for assistance did not yield any results.

"They didn't offer anything," Attalla said of the federal government.

He said he also contacted his federal MP, the NDP's Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe, and gave her office documents.

"They didn't bother to call me back or to say if they did anything," Attalla said.

Fawzy, the other man caught up in the issue, went to Toronto police on Saturday accompanied by his MP, Liberal Jim Karygiannis, to seek protection.