04:56 GMT22 January 2021
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    With debate ongoing about portraying Jesus Christ as gay in the Brazilian comedy “The First Temptation of Christ”, Netflix is facing fresh backlash over its new series “Messiah”, which depicts an alleged modern-day saviour. Ahead of the premiere, a petition was launched calling for a boycott of the streaming giant.

    The Netflix premiere of “Messiah”, set to be streamed on 1 January 2020, has triggered an online storm, as some accused the service of spreading “evil and anti-Islamic propaganda”. The show pictures a man who acts like a modern-day prophet or saviour as well as reactions to his “miracles” and messages, which are spread about him via social media.

    The main character (Belgian Mehdi Dehbi) is called Al Massih ad-Dajjal and nicknamed “Al-Masih” by some characters. He proclaims himself a son of God. The trailer and teasers do not specify the religion or reveal whether he is a prophet, a terrorist, or just a con artist behind a new cult.

    At the same time, he has a plan to lead 2,000 Palestinian Syrians across the Israeli border, entering the global spotlight and attracting the interest of the CIA, whose officer Eva Geller, played by Michelle Monaghan, is to probe the “messiah”. The events in the series unfold in the Middle East and the US.

    The show’s creator Michael Petroni admitted in an interview with the Daily Mail that his brainchild is provocative, adding, however, that “provocative isn't offensive”. He insists that it “doesn't set out to offend anyone”.

    “It's not like I'm welcoming backlash. We expect that there's going to be a lot of noise around the show, and a lot of debate. I'm hoping for debate”, Petroni explained.

    However, some saw a false and even smearing representation of Islam in the show, as the main character’s name can be translated as “antichrist” or “false messiah” from Arabic. This was perceived as a spoiler by some and prompted others to conclude that the messiah character is based on an Islamic description of the antichrist.

    Although Netflix’s Twitter account noted “That's not actually the character's name”, refuting spoiler claims, the explanation did not seem to satisfy commenters. More than 3,500 signatures have been added to a petition, started by a user under the handle Zeynaba Dahir, lambasting the show and urging to boycott the platform over smearing Islam.

    “You may say it is a non-issue, it's just a series. But this slow exposure of evil and anti-Islamic propaganda will slowly turn hearts. Muslims are not just the only ones that believe in the Antichrist. This topic is rather sensitive and making a production like this will only have viewers forgetting the fact that this matter is not a joke”, it reads.

    However, many seemed to be sceptical towards the backlash.

    ​Others suggested that the allegations are baseless.

    ​Some netizens, however, shared the sentiment of the petition online.


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