His inflammatory chat show on satellite television has long prided itself on baiting liberals, Christians and Jews, but last week saw Sheikh Khalid Abdullah stage the broadcasting controversy of a lifetime.
The rabble-rousing Egyptian tele-Islamist knew he had found a ratings-grabber when he found an obscure, badly-made film on the internet called the Innocence of Muslims.
It had actually been online since July, but nobody had paid attention to its crude libels against the Prophet Mohammed until Mr Abdullah’s show broadcast clips from it last weekend, calling for the film-makers to be executed.
Within hours the hardline Salafi Islamists who watch his programme, and who have been growing in strength since last year’s revolution, were demonstrating in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and outside the US embassy, which they stormed on Tuesday, burning the US flag.
Thus came the spark to a week of violent protests against the film, leading to the killing of the US ambassador to Libya on Tuesday evening and assaults on Western embassies across the Middle East, leaving at least nine dead and hundreds injured.
Also taking a battering are hopes that the democratic processes unleashed by the Arab Spring might mean that violent, anti-Western feeling was becoming a thing of the past.
“I don’t have a bad conscience about it, I did not call for violence,” Mr Abdullah said yesterday in an interview at his home in a middle-class Cairo suburb. “It’s not like I made this film. I only transmitted the news. It is funny that people in the West imagine that showing only two and a half minutes of the film on my channel was responsible for this whole crisis.”
Mr Abdullah, 47, whose “New Egypt” talk show started last year, exemplifies the way the Arab Spring movement of the past 18 months has unleashed two vocal and diametrically opposed forces within the Muslim world.
One is that of the “Facebook Generation” who initially led the protests in the likes of Tahrir Square, who are generally liberal, educated and secular.
The other is that of conservative, voraciously anti-Western Islamists who were likewise viciously suppressed by dictators like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and who are also now exercising their freedom of speech.
Despite Salafis officially advocating an Amish-like disdain for the trappings of modern life, they are as well-versed in the power of digital media as any other Arab Spring protesters. And just like the Facebookers, they are adept at getting their supporters onto the streets – as the mayhem of the past week has shown.
Yesterday protests over the film continued, with clashes outside US diplomatic presences not just in the Middle East but right round the globe. In the Australian city of Sydney, police were pelted with rocks and bottles by several hundred protesters carrying placards saying: “Behead all those who insult the Prophet”.