What Is The Meaning Of Al-Masih & Why Is Netflix’s Messiah Using The Controversial Term?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
There’s a lot of meaning in a name.
Take, for example, Netflix’s upcoming show Messiah. The 10-part thriller series follows a man in Syria who claims to be the son of God (played by Mehdi Dehbi). He is apparently able to perform Christ-like miracles amassing him a global following, all while CIA agent Eve Geller (Michelle Monaghan), who believes this is part of a large-scale, geopolitical hoax, attempts to debunk the claims.
With such a hot button premise, Messiah has drawn plenty of controversy of its own all before it has even been released. Much of it hinges on a name — specifically, the titular messiah’s, who is known only as al-Masih.
The buzz grew after Netflix shared a trailer for the series and Muslims and Arabic speakers pointed out a giant giveaway about the plot. Al-Masih, which translates to “the messiah,” is a name for Jesus Christ in Islam — but according to the BBC, it also a name associated with Dajjal, a false prophet akin to the Antichrist, who announces himself to the world as al-Masih. In Islamic theology, Dajjal impersonates the true messiah and is often described as having curly hair, being blind in one eye, and sporting the word “kafir” (“unbeliever”) on his forehead.
After Islamic and Arabic speaking followers pointed out the name’s meaning on Twitter, Netflix denied that the main character’s full name is al-Masih ad-Dajjal. As Messiah fell under scrutiny, some users mined some humor from the situation.
But others also pointed out how this could be more than just lazy storytelling, arguing that the move feels ignorant of Islamic theology and shows an obvious pandering to English-speaking, non-Islamic audiences. 
It’s still unclear where Messiah, which is streaming now, will go with the name, though we won’t have to wait much longer to find out. 

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