The country of Jordan has called on Netflix to axe the controversial thriller Messiah, which has been branded ‘anti-Islamic’ ahead of its premiere.
The show follows a CIA agent (True Detective’s Michelle Monaghan) investigating a mysterious figure named Al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi), who has gathered a legion of followers after proclaiming to have been sent to Earth to help humanity by a higher power.
Now, the Royal Commission of Jordan wants Netflix to ban the programme from airing. Messiah was partially shot in the country, with filming permitted from the approval of episode outlines, but it seems that the narrative of the show has proved too controversial.
‘Having been made aware of [the show’s] content, the RFC has asked officially the management of Netflix to refrain from streaming it in Jordan,’ the Commission said in a statement.
‘The story is purely fictional and so are the characters, yet the RFC deems that the content of the series could be largely perceived or interpreted as infringing on the sanctity of religion.’
The statement concluded: ‘While still standing firmly by its principles, notably the respect of creative freedom, the RFC – as a public and responsible institution – cannot condone or ignore messages that infringe on the Kingdom’s basic laws.’
This is not the first bout of backlash the show has received, either. Over 4,000 people have signed up to a petition calling for the show to be banned or face a boycott as a result.
Viewers who have seen the trailer claim the show will be anti-Islamic and disrespectful to their beliefs. Some Christians also accused Messiah of being blasphemous.
In response to the controversy and the claims of the Royal Commission of Jordan, Netflix explained: ‘Messiah is a work of fiction. It is not based on any one character, figure or religion.
‘All Netflix shows feature ratings and information to help members make their own decisions about what’s right for them and their families.’
Particular anger has been caused over Dehbi’s character, whose name is similar to the evil figure in Islamic eschatology called Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, and was branded a liar, compared to the Antichrist.
In the series, Al-Masih aims to cross 2,000 Palestinian Syrians over the border of Israel.
Showrunner Michael Petroni has defended Messiah, insisting he didn’t set out to offend anyone’.
‘It’s not like I’m welcoming backlash,’ he stressed to Associated Foreign Press. ‘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.’