December 29, 2010
The stars of the hit motoring show Top Gear have sparked religious criticism after dressing in burqa-style clothing while filming an episode in the Middle East.
Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond disguised themselves as women by wearing Islamic face veils which only revealed their eyes in a Christmas show filmed in Syria.
In the episode, broadcast on the BBC on Boxing Day to six million viewers, the hosts drove across the Middle East to trace the path of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem.
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But their choice of attire backfired, prompting complaints from Muslims in Britain who said the show mocked their religion.
Controversial Islamic activist Anjem Choudary told the Daily Mail the burqa was a "symbol of our religion and people should not make jokes about it in any way".
"It would have been equally bad even if they'd not been in a country mainly populated by Muslims," he said.
Viewers also expressed their disgust at the wardrobe choice online, with one viewer writing "Death to America" on a Yahoo! forum.
Others turned to Twitter to denounce the episode.
"Why is Jeremy Clarkson wearing a Burqa? The Top Gear gang deserve to get hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]," tweeted a viewer.
Another wrote: "This is probably the worst top gear special. Y the f*** r they wearing burqas!!?"
The outfit was designed as a joke for co-presenter James May, who ended up in hospital after falling in the Syrian desert and hitting his head on rocks.
After May's recovery, Clarkson and Hammond greeted him at the hospital dressed in burqas, which they said was also a useful disguise on the road.
It is the second religious furore involving Clarkson this year.
In July he told Top Gear viewers that he had seen a Muslim woman wearing sexy lingerie beneath her gown.