Christian-themed TV shows spark complaints in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon
Television shows with Christian themes have sparked complaints in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon in recent days, but from different groups and for different reasons.
In Saudi Arabia, a popular sitcom has drawn the ire of conservative clerics over an episode portraying Arab Christians in a positive light after the kingdom sought to sell itself as a leader of dialogue between faiths.
(Photo: Saudis watch a religious programme during Ramadan, 15 Sept 2008/Fahad Shadeed)
A two-part episode of the sitcom “Tash Ma Tash,” which has aired during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan for 17 years, showed the two main Saudi characters, both Muslims, being advised by their dying father to visit the brother of their deceased Lebanese mother.
After a tearful reunion, the pair discover their mother’s relatives were Christians and their Uncle Boutros was a priest. Despite their initial shock, the brothers slowly come to respect their uncle’s Christianity, although they try to convert him to Islam and give him a Koran.
Some Saudi clerics were not impressed. “A Muslim is allowed to praise only the one true religion — Islam,” said Eissa al-Ghaith, a judge at the Justice Ministry, in remarks carried by al-Madina newspaper on Sunday.
In Lebanon, two Muslim channels, including Hezbollah’s al-Manar television, said on Friday they had stopped airing a series depicting the life of Jesus after complaints from Christians. Al-Manar and NBN television said they had selected the series to show during Ramadan, but had “decided to stop airing it … to prevent any attempt to use it in a negative way.”
(Photo: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on al-Manar television showing in a Beirut cafe, 30 Nov 2006/Mohamed Azakir)
The stations said in a joint statement that the series “sheds light on the great personality of God’s prophet Eissa Bin Mariam (Jesus son of Mary) and his divine message which reflects with all glorification and lordliness through his life, his suffering, his passion and sacrifices.” Jesus is a revered prophet in Islam, but Muslims do not accept the Christian belief that he was the son of God.
Maronite Bishop Bechara Rai, president of the Episcopal Commission for Mass Media in Lebanon, said Christians objected to what he called distorted events in the series. “It… denies the divinity of Christ… (and shows the person) who was crucified was Judas, and there is no resurrection,” he told Reuters.