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Dita Alangkara, Associated Press
A Muslim youth pauses near a poster during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Indonesians enraged over an anti-Islam film hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on Monday, marking the first violence in the world's most populous Muslim country since outrage exploded last week in the Middle East and beyond.

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.