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Iranian President's Christmas Message Sparks Outcry

( [email protected] ) Dec 27, 2008 12:28 PM EST
The holiday message delivered by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Britain's Channel 4 television station drew a wide range of critics this week.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, center left, attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Iran, Friday, Dec. 12, 2008. Thousands of Iranians stage demonstrations to protest Israel of the consequences of the ongoing siege of the militant Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Ahmadinejad repeatedly has called for Israel's destruction. A poster, at rear, shows late spiritual leader and founder of Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. (Photo: AP Images / Vahid Salemi)

The holiday message delivered by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for Britain's Channel 4 television station drew a wide range of critics this week.

Although each year Channel 4 features an often controversial counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional annual message, many disagreed with the network’s selection of Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust, advocates the destruction of the sovereign state of Israel, and executes children.

"Outrage doesn't begin to explain it,” commented Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London.

In Ahmadinejad’s message Thursday, the Iranian head of state didn’t refer to rival nations or leaders by name but said Jesus Christ would undoubtedly “stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.”

"If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over,” he said, according to the English translation of the Farsi-language speech.

"If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime," he added.

Following the broadcast, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represents the Jewish community in the United Kingdom, expressed how offensive the Christmas Day message was.

"To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust," the group's president, Henry Grunwald, told The Associated Press.

Channel 4 was "aiding and abetting a tyrant," added British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

"This is the equivalent of giving [Zimbabwean ruler] Robert Mugabe a prime-time television slot to promote his propaganda," he said.

In response to the outcry against Ahmadinejad’s inclusion in this year’s broadcast, Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, said the Iranian president was picked because he is “enormously influential” as the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East.

“As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view," Byrne told the press.

Since 1993, Channel 4 has broadcast an "Alternative Christmas message" featuring a contemporary celebrity delivering a message in the manner of Britain’s queen. Past message presenters include activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a Scottish male comedian playing Princess Diana (less than a year before her death), a celebrity chef, and Marge Simpson from The Simpsons cartoon series.

Byrne said Ahmadinejad’s message Thursday continued "a long tradition of offering a different perspective on the world around us."