Lebanese TV stations scrap Jesus show

Controversial program describes Jesus from an Islamic point of view.

Christian 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Christian 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
BEIRUT  — Two Shiite Muslim television stations in Lebanon canceled a controversial program about Jesus on Friday, saying they do not want to stir up sectarian conflict in the country.
The 17-episode program, which was produced in Iran, describes Jesus from an Islamic point of view. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet and a teacher, but not the son of God.
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The debate has particular resonance in Lebanon, an Arab nation of 4 million people with a grim history of sectarian strife. The country's population is divided into 18 sects, including Sunni and Shiite Muslims, Christians and Druse.
Al-Manar, a television station run by Hizbullah, and the National Broadcasting Network, NBN, started airing the program this week at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Christian priests and politicians quickly protested, saying the topic might endanger national coexistence.
The program does not show respect to "Jesus, the church and Christianity," Catholic Maronite Archbishop Bechara el-Rai told reporters Friday.
Shortly before el-Rai's news conference, Al-Manar and NBN issued a statement saying the program "shows the great personality of God's prophet Jesus, the son of Mary, peace be upon him." But, the statement said, the stations decided to stop airing the program in respect to other Lebanese sects.
Information Minister Tarek Mitri said that even though he is against censorship, he agreed with the cancellation because of Lebanon's religious diversity.
"There is a special case in Lebanon which is considered a country of dialogue and a country where Christians and Muslims meet," Mitri said.