An official at Hizb Allah's television station, al-Manar, said on Saturday its version of the movie trailer, titled, The Passion of the Iraqis, borrowed on a "universal theme" to get its message out. 

The 40-second clip shows Iraqi prisoners' torture at the hands of occupation troops as parallel to the torture of Jesus Christ at the hands of the Romans and the Jews. 

"The suffering of Jesus Christ is a universal theme. It is something everyone, including us as Muslims, believes in," said Ibrahim Musawi, who heads al-Manar's political programmes. 

Muslims revere Jesus Christ as a prophet. They believe someone else was crucified in his place. 

'No Mercy'

The clip starts with images of Iraqi suffering, including an occupation soldier kicking an Iraqi prisoner and a man and woman cowering in terror as troops burst into their home. The words "No Mercy" and "No Compassion" are flashed on the screen. 

"We are simply using a universal theme to get an important message across: that the pain of the Iraqi people is deep, the level of torture appalling"

Ibrahim Musawi,
Director of al-Manar's political programmes

Then, with the movie's familiar soundtrack in the background, the words "The Passion of the Iraqis" appear on the left side of the screen - in the same typeface as the film's logo- next to the now-famous photo of a hooded Iraqi prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his outstretched arms. 

"We are simply using a universal theme to get an important message across: that the pain of the Iraqi people is deep, the level of torture appalling," Musawi told The Associated Press on Saturday of the clip which started airing a few days ago. 

The Passion of the Christ received an exceptionally warm welcome in the mainly Muslim Arab world, drawing large audiences in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, which usually bans movies depicting any of the prophets recognised by Islam. 

In the United States, the film sparked a debate, with rabbis warning that it would fuel anti-Semitism.