JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Energy-drink maker Red Bull said Wednesday it has dropped an advertisement in South Africa after an outcry from both Christians and Muslims for its portrayal of Jesus Christ walking on water.
South Africa’s Roman Catholic bishops urged Christians not to drink Red Bull in traditional fasting for Lent ahead of Easter celebrations next month, stopping short of calling for a full commercial boycott.
The television cartoon implies Jesus walked on water because he had been invigorated by a miraculous energy drink and knew where there were hidden rocks to tread on.
South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council on Wednesday warned of consequences of “secular extremism” against any religious faith.
It said any “insult and satire” of Jesus targeted “the very foundation of Islamic theology.”
Christ is a revered prophet in Islam.
In a message to Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, head of the Southern Africa Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, the Muslim council said the ad was hurtful to Christianity, Islam and religion as a whole.
“We wish that our voices can be united to make clear to any secular extremist that any attack or defacement of religious symbols and sacred spaces is not acceptable,” the council said.
Cardinal Napier earlier called on Catholic worshippers to donate to charities any money they saved on Red Bull during Lent.
In a statement, the drinks maker said its humorous advertising always looks at “well-known themes.”
“It is never our intention to hurt anyone’s feelings,” it said.
It said the ad, aired on Tuesday, was scrapped Wednesday, and Red Bull regretted it had caused such strong feelings in religious communities.
Cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohamed triggered violent protests in Europe and across the Muslim world.
“There is a need for a new sensitivity toward people’s beliefs,” said Chris Townsend, an official of the Bishops Conference in South Africa.
“As on this occasion, people become very deeply offended,” Townsend said.
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