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Friday, October 12, 2007

‘The Ten Commandments’ film features on Pakistan GEO TV
Pakistani Christians hail TV broadcast, but fear backlash from Muslims

By Sheraz Khurram Khan
Special Correspondent for ASSIST News Service in Pakistan

Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Shrugging off possible hostile reaction from hard line Muslims, a private Pakistani TV channel “Geo” on Thursday dared airing a celebrated classic Cecil B. DeMille film entitled “The Ten Commandments,” starring Charlton Heston as Moses.

The movie, which also featured supporting roles from Yul Brynner, Anne

Baxter, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, and E. G. Robinson, was aired on Thursday, October 11, 2007 at 8:00 PM, Pakistan time.

The depiction of the Prophet Moses in the film may provoke Muslim anger as Islamic tradition explicitly prohibits portrayal of major religious figures. Some five people were killed across Pakistan during protests following printing and reprinting of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad by some western media publications in January last year.

Pakistani Christians have long been complaining of little or no coverage of their religious festivals including Christmas and Easter on electronic media. Some Pakistani minority leaders in the past have also raised this issue in the National Assembly, the lower house of Pakistan parliament.

National Director CLAAS, Mr. Joseph Francis

Reacting to the airing of the celebrated film on the Pakistani T.V channel, the National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), Mr. Joseph Francis told ANS that some of the programs of the private TV channels, including GEO TV's program “Alam Online”, were spewing fanaticism. He alleged the anchor of the program cited wrong quotations of Jesus Christ in one of his programs.

Asked if airing of the film on the TV was a positive development for Pakistani Christians, he replied in the affirmative but said time will tell if the TV continues to air Christian themed films.

He urged the media to play its role in transforming Pakistan into a tolerant, moderate and progressive society. This is in the larger interest of the country, he remarked.

Minister of State for Minorities Affairs, Professor Mushtaq Victor

Professor Mushtaq Victor, Minister of State for Minorities Affairs, said

that he appreciated Pakistan GEO TV for airing the Christian film after dubbing it in Urdu, which is Pakistan’s national language. However, he said that he feared anger by some hard line Muslims over the airing of the film.

By showing the popular Christian the film, the minister said that GEO TV had made it clear that it respects the faith of Christians too. “I congratulate GEO TV for this initiative,” he said.

Catholic Priest, Fr. Aftab James, who is coordinator of Diocesan Bible Commission in Faisalabad said he too feared a backlash from Muslims following the airing of this celebrated film and he dubbed it as “daring” for the their initiative to show the film.

Catholic Priest Fr. Mukhtar Alam commended GEO TV for airing the famed Christian film. He said that the view of the film would not lead to conversion of a Muslim to Christianity; therefore, Muslims should watch the film in a bid to learn more about the life of Prophet Moses instead of working themselves up on the featuring of the film on the TV.

GEO TV is already getting feedback on the film from people of all walks of life in one of its programs entitled “Pachas Minutes” (Fifty Minutes). Fr. James urged the TV to also invite Christian scholars to appear on their program so that they could also express their views on it.

Hailing GEO TV for the initiative, he said the other TV channels should also “follow suit”. He called for the airing of the film in other indigenous languages spoken across Pakistan.

Several Pakistani Christians told ANS that the airing of the film on this TV station came as a pleasant surprise for them.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Pakistan.

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