Every year the Queen of England gives a short speech on Christmas Day that is broadcast on the BBC. She never says anything hugely exciting–she’s the Queen, after all–and as a result every year there’s an alternative speech broadcast on Channel 4 at the same time as the Queen’s speech. One year it was given by Ali G. Another year by an anonymous British-born Muslim woman. Other presenters have included Sharon Osbourne, Jamie Oliver, Brigitte Bardot, and the late gay icon Quentin Crisp. This year the alternative Christmas Message was given by none other than the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Independent reports:
The speech by Mr Ahmadinejad, whose nuclear ambitions and views on Israel and homosexuality have strained relations between Iran and the West, was moderate, with none of the harsh rhetoric for which he has gained notoriety. God, he said, had created “every human being with the ability to reach the heights of perfection”. He also urged Muslims and Christians to work together towards a world of “love, brotherhood and justice”.
Perhaps mindful of its controversial choice of speaker, Channel 4 did not broadcast the message at 3pm to coincide with the Queen’s speech on BBC and ITV, as it has done every year since 1993. Instead, the programme was screened at 7.15pm. However, that did not prevent a backlash which started even before the broadcast. The human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell had urged Channel 4 to “pull the plug on this criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world’s most bloody tyrants”.
Speaking in Farsi with English subtitles, Mr Ahmadinejad sent his congratulations to “the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain”. He said the world’s ills had come about through nations failing to follow the teachings of the Prophets, including Jesus. He also made a thinly-veiled attack on the US, claiming Christ would have been against “bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers” and would have opposed “warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over”.
Watch the video below. It’s pretty boring, but also very bizarre. I’m not sure why it makes sense to invite Ahmadinejad to give an address about a Christian holiday, even if he isn’t a tyrant, bigot and anti-Semite. And since he is all of those things it really seems like a dumb choice.