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Free speech, religion clash over anti-Islam film

By Gillian Flaccus

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 18 2012 3:11 a.m. MDT

An Egyptian protester stomps on the roof of a car in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, early Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, before police cleared the area after days of protests against a film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad. Egyptian police on Saturday cleared out protesters who have been clashing with security forces for the past four days near the U.S. Embassy as most cities around the Muslim world reported calm a day after at least six people were killed in a wave of angry protests over an anti-Islam film.(AP Photo)

The Associated Press

CERRITOS, Calif. — 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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