NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City police have added security at Coptic Christian churches around the city in case a film denouncing Islam sparks violent protests like those in Egypt and Libya.
In New York, the police department said it had “no evidence of any attacks planned against targets in the city,” but had added security based on “reports that Coptic Christians were linked in some fashion to the video.”
Church officials and police in other areas where there are Egyptian-American Coptic communities said they saw no need for extra precautions.
“We have not contacted the police to make a round,” said Halla Hanna, spokeswoman for St. John Kame Coptic Orthodox Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where 15 to 20 families attend services every other week. “I don’t know that people around here know who we are.”
The video, called “Innocence of Muslims,” portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser. It angered many Muslims and provoked a deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three embassy staff.
It is unclear exactly who made the film, but one of its major promoters is an Egyptian Christian living in the United States, Morris Sadek. He said on Wednesday he did not consider the video offensive to Islam.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church condemned some Copts living abroad, whom it said financed “the production of a film insulting the Prophet Mohammad,” an Egyptian state website said.
Coptic Christians, who form Egypt’s biggest minority group and constitute most of Egypt’s Christian population, have had a difficult relationship with the country’s overwhelmingly Muslim majority.
Conflicts over conversions, cross-faith romances and church-building have flared in Egyptian towns where turf wars or family rivalries often loom as large as sectarian loyalties.
Since former President Hosni Mubarak’s removal, Christians have become increasingly worried after a surge in attacks on churches, which they blame on hardline Islamists, though experts say local disputes are often also behind them.
There are more than 150 Coptic churches in the United States, with strongholds in New Jersey, California, Florida and New York, according to the website of the Coptic Orthodox Church Network.
At a number of churches on Wednesday, priests were quick to condemn the killings in Libya and distance Coptic Christians from the controversial video.
“We have nothing to do with that,” said Father Luka Wassif of St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in suburban Atlanta, which has about 1,000 members.
Reporting by Paul Thomasch, Cynthia Johnston, Jim Forsyth, Thomas Brown, Verna Gates, Harriet McLeod, and Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stacey Joyce