An Islamic television station is using a Bugs Bunny lookalike in a programme for children, who vote whether to chop off his hands when breaches Sharia law.
Last Updated: 2:15PM BST 23 Jul 2008
Assud the rabbit vows to “kill and eat Jews” and glorifies the maiming of “infidels” on the Palestinian children’s show Tomorrow’s Pioneers.
In one episode, Assud admits stealing money and is seen begging for mercy after young viewers and parents phone in demanding to cut off his hands as punishment.
At that point, Saraa, the 11-year-old presenter, intervenes and rules that the bunny should only have his ears severed because he has repented.
The rabbit, played by a costumed actor, is one of the main characters on the show broadcast in Gaza by the al-Aqsa channel, which is otherwise known as Hamas TV.
Religious leaders in Britain, where the channel can be viewed via satellite, criticised the programme, amid fears British children could be affected by the radical Islamic message.
The Association of Muslim Schools, which represents Britain’s 143 Muslim schools, said it was opposed to any shows that incite violence.
Dr Mohamed Mukadam, the association’s spokesman, said: “It goes without saying that any programme which promotes the killing or injuring of human beings is wrong.
“Regardless of religion, shows that incite or inspire others to inflict violence of any kind should be condemned.
“Such shows are against the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, and we would urge people of all ages not to watch them.”
Set up as a regional station prior to the Palestinian elections in January 2006, the al-Aqsa channel now airs on a satellite slot and has a substantial following across the Arab world.
Tomorrow’s Pioneers was first aired in April 2007, and features young host Saraa Barhoum and her co-host, a large costumed animal.
The show originally featured a character called Farfur who resembled Mickey Mouse and urged children to fight against the Jewish community and form a world Islamic state.
Farfur was later replaced by a bumble bee called Nahoul, who told viewers to “follow the path of Islam, of martyrdom and of the Mujahideen”.
He was ‘martyred’ earlier this year and replaced by Assud, who tells children in his first episode: “I, Assud, will get rid of the Jews, Allah willing, and I will eat them up.”
In a discussion with 11-year-old host Saraa Barhoum, the young viewers are referred to as ‘soldiers’.
Assud asks Saraa: “We are all martyrdom-seekers, are we not?”
“Yes, we are all ready to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our homeland,” she replies.
The phone-in show accepts calls from children as young as nine on topics about life in Palestine.
In an episode aired on July 11, Assud is seduced by Satan into stealing money from his father – an offence forbidden in Sharia law.
Host Saraa is then seen asking the studio audience what the rabbit’s punishment should be.
Viewers, including parents and children, phoned in demanding that his hands should be severed to teach him a lesson.
After taking several calls, Saraa asks the children: “Do you think we should go ahead and chop off Assud’s hand now?”
The terrified rabbit slumps to his knees and pleads: “No, no Saraa, I’m begging you.”
In the end, Saraa – acting as judge and jury – rules that his ear should be cut off instead, but this was not shown on the programme.
During an episode aired in February, Assud vows to kill and eat all Danish people over the cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed which appeared in Danish newspapers.
He pledges to assassinate the illustrator and Saraa also agrees that she would martyr herself for the cause of Palestine.
Saraa, who has seven brothers and sisters, was invited to host the show after entering a singing competition.
Last year she defended the programme, insisting it was not responsible for spreading extremism.
She said: “We are not terrorists. We do not support terrorism. We are normal people, but we are defending our homeland.
“The Israelis hit next door to my house with a shell. I was wounded on my feet and my little brother Youssef was wounded in the legs.
“We, as Muslims, are against suicide bombers. We are against the death of civilians on all sides. We are only the enemy of those who took our land and kill us every day.”
The show is regularly translated and posted online by The Middle East Media Research Institute, an independent media monitoring group based in the United States.
The al-Aqsa channel was unavailable for comment