Lebanon TV stations cancel airing of Jesus series based on Qu’ran
The Iranian director of a show about Jesus decried recently Lebanese Christian organizations for objecting to his TV serial, which caused two Muslim television stations to pull it off the air.
Nader Talebzadeh directed the film “The Messiah” in 2007, which became the basis for a 17-episode TV series to be aired during Ramadan. He complained when two Muslim-owned TV stations, Al-Manar and the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) pulled the show off the air after two episodes, The Christian Post said.
The program was canceled to avoid sectarian tension, the TV stations said in a statement. While noting the program “shows the great personality of God’s prophet Jesus,” they wanted to respect other religious groups, The Christian Post said. It is still seen however on pan-Arab satellite stations, the Los Angeles Times said.
Both TV stations have links to the Lebanese group Hezbollah, The Christian Post said. Talebzadeh believes the Lebanese Christians complained for political reasons, the Los Angeles Times said.
The film version won an award from the Vatican for its promotion of interfaith dialogue. It was also purchased by many Catholic Latin American countries, the Los Angeles Times said.
However, both the movie and the television program show Jesus through a Muslim lens, and do not say he is the son of God, nor do they say Jesus died on the cross, The Christian Post said.
The Christian community in Lebanon is large and influential. In a sit-in at Beirut’s Catholic Center last Friday they said the show distorted their beliefs of Jesus, The Christian Post said.
“The Messiah” is based on the Gospel of Barnabas, which the church rejects, as it claims Jesus was never crucified nor resurrected; and mentions the Muslim prophet Muhammad. The film is also based on the Qu’ran, The Christian Post said.
The Qu’ran says Jesus, though a prophet and teacher, was not the son of God; and claims that when Jesus was crucified, Judas took Jesus’ place on the cross, the Los Angeles Times said.
Maronite Catholic Archbishop Bechara el-Rai, who represents a dominant group in Lebanese politics and society, said the program disrespects Jesus and Christianity, The Christian Post said.
In Lebanese politics a Maronite Catholic must be president, while a Sunni Muslim must be prime minister, and a Shiite Muslim, parliament speaker. Muslims and Christians equally divide the Cabinet and parliament, The Christian Post said.
At issue too is free speech in Lebanon which is freer compared to other countries in the region, but still censors programs that are considered very lewd, too political, or offensive to religion, the Los Angeles Times said.