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Christians protest BBC show

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, JAN. 10. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was on Monday embroiled in a row with Christian groups after it telecast a controversial opera depicting a "gay'' Jesus despite widespread protests that it was "offensive'' and "obscene''.

The telecast of Jerry Springer— The Opera, a fictional recreation of America's provocative Jerry Springer show and cluttered with swear-words, provoked a record 50,000 complaints and allegedly abusive emails to the BBC staff.

Two senior BBC executives, directly involved in the broadcast, were provided special security by the corporation following "threatening'' calls after their telephone numbers were posted on the website of a Christian group, leading the protest. Security was also tightened at a Central London theatre showing the opera.

A spokesman of Christian Voice said it planned to sue the BBC for "blasphemy''. "The BBC would not have done this if it had been Muslims or Sikhs, but because we are Christians, we are fair game,'' said its national director, Stephen Green.

Decision defended

The BBC defended its decision to telecast the show hailing it as an "important piece of contemporary musical theatre''. Thanks to the publicity generated by the controversy, it was watched by more than one million viewers. "We are pleased that a wider audience has been able to see this important piece of contemporary musical theatre,'' the corporation said.

The controversy comes close on the heels of violent protests by Sikhs against a play which depicted alleged sexual abuse in a gurdwara; and threats from right-wing Hindu youths to disrupt a festival at which films on Gujarat violence and demolition of Babri Masjid are to be shown.

The Sikh group which forced the closure of the play, Behzti, has come out in support of Christians upset over the BBC opera.

Many Christians, while distancing themselves from the protests, said that a public service broadcaster, funded by taxpayers, should have shown greater sensitivity.

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