Media Ignoring Race Issue in 'Passion' Film, Group Says

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - A black activist group protesting the representation of Jesus as a white man in the Mel Gibson-produced movie, The Passion of the Christ , now accuses the "mainstream media" of ignoring the issue.

The New Black Panther Party is critical of Gibson's film because the group believes Jesus was a black man, not a white man as portrayed in the film. A group spokesman said the media is conspiring to cover up the racial issue.

"No media has interviewed any major black person on this movie. They've been interviewing for...30 days, for nearly a month and no black man has been interviewed concerning the movie, [to give] his sentiment on one way or the other," said Imam Akbar, national minister for the New Black Panther Party in an interview with

"This purposely omitted fact is that Jesus was not a European white man. Jesus Christ was a black man - a dark skinned Hebrew Israelite from Northern Africa and even the only biblical physical description confirms this," said Malik Z. Shabazz, national chairman of the New Black Panther Party, in a statement Tuesday.

In the group's press release Shabazz had referenced Revelations 13:20, but no such Bible verse exists, since chapter 13 of the Book of Revelations only ends with verse 18.

After contacted the New Black Panther Party to clarify the Bible verse referenced in the release, Akbar explained that the original reference contained a typo. He instead, pointed to Revelations 1:14 and 1:15 as well as Daniel 10:6.

"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters." (Rev. 1:14 and 1:15)

"His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude." (Daniel 10:6)

"Not only does this film wrongfully depict Christ as white but all the disciples and Israelites are people of European descent, which presents a historical and physical impossibility," Shabazz said.

Akbar said Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, wants members of the public to think about the Gibson movie every time they read a line of Scripture, connecting the Bible verses with the images they saw in the movie.

"Jesus was clearly a Semitic person," Akbar said, questioning why Gibson "didn't use [actor] Danny Glover as Jesus." He said, "You don't have to be a student of the Scripture even to read the Bible and see...that they describe the hair as the lamb's wool and the skin as the molten brass. These are the facts of the Scripture and facts of history."

Rev. Jesse Peterson, president of the black conservative group, B.O.N.D. (Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny) said the claims that Jesus was black take away from the overall message of the movie.

Peterson said he saw The Passion of the Christ last weekend and "there's nothing in this movie that is racist at all."

"It was inspiring spiritually," he said. "I think that it's going to reconfirm the faith in many Christians and it's going to encourage those who had doubt about Christ. There will be many, I believe, that will believe in Him. I knew that this thing would come out that 'he wasn't black' and that 'it's racist.' It's not."

Peterson explained that, "the Bible clearly states that Christ was in Israel and that he was a Jew." The movie, he said, "clearly points that out as well."

Peterson said to "cry racism is a non-issue. This is an attempt for attention. It's shameful to make that kind of assertion about this movie."

When asked whether Shabazz's physical description of Jesus and his birthplace of Northern Africa were accurate, Peterson said, "I've heard that over and over again, and at one point when I resented white Americans, I believed that too."

But, Peterson said, "in all honesty there is no, I think, perfect description of what Christ looked like anyway, and I think that each race...the white race at one point said that he looked white [with] blue eyes and blond hair. That wasn't true. The blacks are trying to claim him...Hispanics, everybody are trying to claim him as their own."

Peterson said that's why the Scripture clearly states, "Do not create a graven image of him, because it will divide and cause confusion."

Peterson took the New Black Panther Party to task for making Jesus' race in the film an issue.

"It's a shame that you have racist organizations like the New Black Panther Party that will come out and allow the devil or darkness to use them, because that's what's happening," Peterson said. "It's a distraction. It's a trick of the devil to come out and call this movie racist...that He was black, He had nappy hair. That's a distraction."

Peterson believes the New Black Panther Party is diminishing the film's spiritual message, which Peterson said might be used to help people who are spiritually wounded.

In response to Peterson's criticism, Akbar said it is the film, not his group that's responsible for causing distractions.

"How much more could you get distracted if you say you come representing the truth and you're casting an image of a big lie," Akbar told

"You're either coming with the truth or you're coming with a lie. But it's no real compromise when it comes to the truth especially concerning Jesus and the religion and the Scripture. So either you're coming with the truth or you're coming with a lie.

See Earlier Story:

Jesus Was Black, Not White, Group Says

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