Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

One's Satan, the other is Barack Obama... can you spot the difference?

Derry star Roma’s new Bible drama sparks furore in US

Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, the actor who plays Satan in the History Channel drama
Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, the actor who plays Satan in the History Channel drama

It isn't just the storyline of The Bible which has created a stir, but the resemblance of the actor who plays Satan to US President Barack Obama.

The furore over the similarity of the devil to the world's most powerful man has prompted the producers of the show – Northern Ireland actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett – to reject any notion it was intentional.

Derry-born star Downey plays Mary, the mother of Jesus, in the mini-series which has drawn in up to 70 million viewers since its premiere on March 3.

US political commentator Glenn Beck is among those who was struck by an apparent similarity between Obama and the man who plays Satan, Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni, after he appeared for the first time on Sunday.

Beck tweeted: 'The bible on the history channel Sunday. Don't miss it. Does satan look exactly like Obama? Yes!'

After Ouazanni's first appearance as Satan, social networking sites have been bombarded by viewers commenting on the resemblance to the President.

Beck also posted a screenshot of Ouazanni and asked if others thought he looked like "That Guy," his preferred term for Obama.

The wave of controversy created by the likeness of the men prompted Downey to try and quell it.

Voicing her support for America's commander-in-chief in a joint statement with her husband, she said: "This is utter nonsense. (Ouazanni) has previously played parts in several Biblical epics – including Satanic characters long before Barack Obama was elected as our President." Downey said Obama congratulated her on the success of The Bible when she met the US President and First Lady at the White House on Monday.

She said they were thankful the show has "engaged the country in a conversation about the Bible".

Downey added: "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love for our President, who is a fellow Christian.

"False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of the Bible."

The five-show series retells the stories from the scriptures, from Genesis through to Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. It uses several religious experts to vet the biblical accuracy of the series.

The History Channel – on which the show is screened – also thought the criticism warranted a response.

"History Channel has the highest respect for President Obama," the channel said. "It's unfortunate that anyone made this false connection. History's The Bible is meant to enlighten people on its rich stories and deep history."

The incident bears comparison with HBO's infamous inclusion of a fake George W Bush head impaled onto a stick in the background of a Game Of Thrones episode.

When the incident went viral, the network announced it was pulling the offending episode. It halted shipments of DVD box sets and sales on iTunes until the embarrassing blunder was fixed.

The History Channel said it currently had no plans to screen The Bible in the UK.

The final episodes will be screened in America over the next two Sundays – Palm Sunday and Easter.

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Wanderlust may be too powerful to resist. Planning a long holiday will be a pleasant diversion from work. You don't have to have fancy accommodation. You're willing to rough it for an adventure, but you do want to get good value for your money. Doing some research into the best places to stay and eat will pay off handsomely. Take along a friend who is free spirited and eager to explore unfamiliar vistas. The two of you will make great travelling companions.More