U.K. TV asks prez to give Xmas talk after Queen.
Channel 4 invited Ahmadi-nejad to deliver its annual "alternative Christmas message," which was broadcast on Christmas Day four hours after Queen Elizabeth II delivered her yearly speech.
The Ahmadi-nejad message was filmed in Iran but was only announced on Christmas Eve as Channel 4 said it was a precarious agreement and the station feared the agreement might fall through at the last minute.
Ahmadi-nejad's message stirred controversy and fueled wide scale outrage. Henry Grunwald, president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, told The Times of London that inviting such a controversial man whose prejudices are so well-documented and who has called for the eradication of another member country of the United Nations is an "affront to decency." He added, "To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alterative one, fills me with disgust."
Britain's Foreign Office agreed. "President Ahmadi-nejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements. The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offense and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell also criticized the channel for inviting the Iranian leader, saying the news channel 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."
But Dorothy Byrne, Channel 4's head of news and current affairs, defended the decision, saying the Iranian leader was chosen because Iran's relations with the West would likely remain a major global issue in 2009.
"As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadi-nejad'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," Byrne said.
While Ahmadi-nejad's message embraced spirituality, many of his comments were provocative and political; he suggested that Jesus would fight American imperialism if he were alive today.
The following is an excerpt from Ahmadi-nejad's remarks:
"Now, as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity's rejection of that [Christian] message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers toward the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.
"The crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy which have made life hard for humanity and continue to put great pressure on all nations, have come about because the Prophets have been forgotten, the Almighty has been forgotten and some leaders are estranged from God.
"If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would 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.
"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.
"The solution to today's problems is a return to the call of the divine Prophets. The solution to these crises is to follow the Prophets--they were sent by the Almighty for the good of humanity. Today, the general will of nations is calling for fundamental change. This is now taking place. Demands for change, demands for transformation, demands for a return to human values are fast becoming the foremost demands of the nations of the world," Ahmadi-nejad said.
Responding to the widespread criticism, Iranian state radio voiced its own complaint that media circles in the West "prejudged" Ahmadi-nejad's speech before it was even aired. "Following this decision [of Channel 4], the media in America, some European countries and the Zionist regime, adopted a certain position against the move which surprised political and media circles. This is because Western media had never reacted to the message of the president of the Islamic Republic like this, before the message was even delivered," state radio reported. Actually, the message attracted very little attention and almost no comment outside Britain.
The state radio quoted a political analyst identified only as Dr. Emam as saying, "Basically, reacting defensively and prejudging in such cases show great weakness or even, in my opinion, defeat."
However, the British criticism wasn't of the content of Ahmadi-nejad's Christmas message, but rather of Channel 4 for showing questionable taste in inviting Ahmadi-nejad to speak.
Others invited by Channel 4 to give the alternative speech in the past have included Jesse Jackson, Brigitte Bardot and Marge Simpson of the cartoon "The Simpsons."