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Controversial Netflix Series ‘Messiah’ Due to Premiere on New Year’s Day

Controversial Netflix Series ‘Messiah’ Due to Premiere on New Year’s Day

On New Year’s Day, Netflix is due to premiere its ‘Messiah’ series. This series follows the journey of a CIA officer’s investigation of a messianic figure, referred to as ‘Al-Masih’, who emerged from the Middle East and appears to be attracting worldwide attention. The trailer was released early last month and seems to have sparked an array of reactions from people across the world, with some Muslims and Christians deeming it offensive and insulting.

Played by Belgian actor Mehdi Dehbi, the mysterious man claims to have been sent by God – who he refers to as his ‘father’ – to carry out a divine mission on this earth. He leaves people in awe with his ability to perform miracles, and assembles a cult-like following from the East and the West. His great influence, along with his mysterious demeanour, arouses the skepticism of a CIA agent who sets out to investigate his true motives; whether he is truly divine or merely a con-artist with a dangerous political agenda.

From the sneak-peak that’s available to us in the trailer, what’s clear is that the series draws upon certain theological concepts about the end of time that take root in the Abrahamic faiths. Though the ‘messiah’ does not clearly state his affiliation with a particular religion, the series has amalgamated specific ideas about the coming of a saviour from both the Christian and Islamic faiths. 

In both Christian and Islamic eschatology, a character referred to as the ‘anti-Christ’ (or in Arabic, al-Dajjal) has been prophesied to emerge close to the end of time. He will deceive the masses and galvanise a movement to oppose the true saviour – or messiah – who is sent by God to spread peace and justice across the world. In Christianity, this is Jesus Christ, while in Islamic belief, the messiah is known as the Mehdi.

Supposedly, the series leaves it till the end for the viewers to discover the true identity of ‘Al-Masih’ – is he the saviour sent by God or the false messiah (anti-Christ)? Though, earlier this month, some sources online concluded that the series inadvertently gave away its core mystery by calling the main character ‘Al-Masih’, the name by which the false messiah (al-Dajjal) is believed to announce himself.

The portrayal of ‘al-Masih’ in this series has sparked much controversy, with people of both faiths taking to social media to express their disapproval. A petition was launched calling for a boycott of the Netflix series due to its alleged anti-Islamic and offensive nature.

A comment on the petition said: “This does not just insult one religion but many.” Another comment said: “This is not a subject that can be taken as a joke, and shouldn’t be used for entertainment and ‘thrill’.”

Religious people have slammed the series for trivialising a sensitive and serious topic for the sake of mere entertainment, as well as for portraying an inauthentic representation of Abrahamic beliefs. Some have even warned they will cancel their subscription to Netflix if it persists with airing the series next month.

Film writer and producer Michael Petroni has responded to the backlash saying: “yes, it is provocative – the show is provocative. But provocative isn’t offensive.” He said that the show “doesn’t set out to offend anyone.”

“It’s not like I’m welcoming backlash,” he added. “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.”

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