August 18, 2010

Lebanon Bans Islamic Film Distorting the Life of Jesus

August 13, 2010

Two Lebanese television networks were banned Friday from showing an Iranian-made biopic on the life of Jesus Christ, officials said after the film sparked outrage among the country's Christians.

"General Security has requested the two Lebanese television channels airing the series during the holy month of Ramadan stop the broadcasts," the official who requested anonymity told AFP.

"The Messiah" was originally released in Iran as a big screen movie in the Islamic republic in 2008.

It was subsequently adapted to television as a series that was dubbed into Arabic and began airing on Lebanon's NBN and Al-Manar television channels after the start this week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting.

NBN and Al-Manar, run respectively by Shiite speaker Nabih Berri and Hezbollah, immediately issued statements saying the film would no longer be screened.

Christian Maronite Archbishop Beshara al-Rai had requested the series be banned as it "denied the basis of Christianity."

Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God and died by crucifixion before resurrecting and ascending to heaven.

But Muslims say Christ, or "the prophet Issa" in Islam, ascended to heaven while still alive, a notion which is made clear in the series.

"In the Quran it talks about Jesus many, many times, and about Mary many, many times," director Nader Talebzadeh said in an interview to CNN in 2008, when the original movie was released.

"But he is never the Son of God, he is a prophet, and also he was not crucified -- someone else was crucified in his place," he added.

Talebzadeh's biopic shows Judas Iscariot being crucified instead of Jesus.