Published October 23, 2008
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – A Dubai radio station fired a South African drive-time DJ for mocking religion and impersonating God on the air, the show's management said Wednesday.
The Arabian Radio Network said in a statement Revin John had been "let go" over a sketch Monday on Virgin Radio Dubai in which he quoted an article about a U.S. court throwing out a lawsuit against God.
John then pretended to act out a telephone conversation with God, prompting complaints from listeners of "diverse faiths and nationalities," said a statement written in reponse to questions from The Associated Press.
"He intended to be funny, not to offend anybody," said Arabian Radio Network Chief Operating Officer Steve Smith. "However, what he did was highly offensive to the Muslim and Christian community in the UAE."
Abdullatif al-Sayegh, chief executive of Arab Media Group, which operates the only Middle East outpost of Richard Branson's Virgin Radio brand, said John was allowed back on air to apologize Tuesday, then was dismissed.
John did not respond to a requests for comment.
In June, John told Dubai English-language newspaper Gulf News he researched the Middle Eastern market thoroughly before arriving. "The adage 'know your audience' was my starting point," he was quoted as saying.
Virgin Radio Dubai went on air earlier this year, playing mostly European and American pop music from Dizzee Rascal to Britney Spears. Its parent, Arabian Radio Network, is a division of Dubai-based conglomerate Arab Media Group, which operates more than a dozen radio and TV stations, including MTV Arabia.
Mariam Zarouni, a 20-year-old chemical engineering student at the American University of Sharjah, said she was so offended by John's comments that she formed a group to protest the incident on the social networking Web site Facebook. It had 569 members by Wednesday evening.
"When somebody crosses the line, then you have to defend your religion," Zarouni said. "Honestly ... how can he do this? We're in a Muslim county. But even Christians would take offense to that. You can't insult God."
Dubai is the most liberal of the seven semiautonomous states that make up the United Arab Emirates, a conservative Muslim country overlooking the Persian Gulf. Alcohol flows freely in the booming city-state's many hotel bars, and fully veiled women shop alongside much less modestly dressed Westerners amid ads for risque lingerie and nightclub wear.
Yet tensions surface when the country's many foreign residents breach the limits of what is considered acceptable here. The issue is particularly raw in the wake after two Britons received jail time this week after being convicted of having sex on a Dubai beach in July.