Ahmadinejad's Christmas broadcast sparks outrage
4:00AM Friday Dec 26, 2008
Iran's President offered season's greetings to Christians in a
British TV address and suggested that if Jesus were alive, he would
oppose "bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers" - an apparent
reference to the United States and its allies.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Christmas Day broadcast was delivered on
Britain's Channel 4 television, occupying a slot that provides an
often controversial counterpoint to the Queen's annual message. A
leading British Jewish group said it was appalled.
According to a transcript released in advance, Ahmadinejad said most
of the world's problems stemmed from leaders who had turned against
religion. The Muslim President does not refer to rival nations or
leaders by name or mention Israel, despite his past calls to wipe it
"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," Ahmadinejad said, according
to the English translation of the Farsi-language speech. The
broadcast was to screen with subtitles.
The United States, Britain and others suspect Iran of developing
nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its uranium enrichment
programme is intended solely for a civilian energy programme.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews - which represents the Jewish
community in the United Kingdom - said the broadcast was
offensive. "To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-
called alternative one, fills me with disgust," said the group's
president, Henry Grunwald.
The Israeli Ambassador to London condemned the speech as a "bogus
message of good will". "That [Channel 4] should give an unchallenged
platform to the President of a regime which denies the Holocaust,
advocates the destruction of the sovereign state of Israel, funds and
encourages terrorism, executes children and hangs gay people is a
disgrace," Ron Prosor said. "Outrage doesn't begin to explain it."
British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell echoed the comments,
saying the broadcaster was "aiding and abetting a tyrant".
"This is the equivalent of giving [Zimbabwean ruler] Robert Mugabe a
prime-time television slot to promote his propaganda," he said.
Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, said
Ahmadinejad was picked because Iran's relations with the West were
likely to remain a big global issue in 2009.
"As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East,
President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential. As we
approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering
our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."
* Some of the people chosen by Britain's Channel 4 to deliver its
Christmas message, an alternative to the speech given by the Queen:
1994 - United States civil rights campaigner the Rev Jesse Jackson.
1995 - French screen icon and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot.
1999 - British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as spoof
rapper Ali G.
2001 - Genelle Guzman, who survived the September 11 terror attacks
on the World Trade Centre in New York.
2002 - Sharon Osbourne, the wife of rock and reality television star
2004 - Animated cartoon character Marge Simpson.
2006 - A British Muslim woman with her face covered by a niqab, a
2007 - Major Andrew Stockton, a British soldier who lost his arm
fighting in Afghanistan.
2008 - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.