A government-run radio station in Algeria allegedly fired its director and three other employees last week for playing a famous Arabic version of a Christmas song sung by the legendary Lebanese singer Fairouz because it “glorifies Christianity.”

According to Algerian media reports, Mourad Boukerzaza, the station’s director, and three other employees were terminated by the Disciplinary Council for broadcasting Eid al-Layl, the Arabic version of Silent Night, during the radio show, Songs of the Beautiful Time, that plays classic Arabic music.

Widely popular, Fairouz is considered on the of Arab world’s best female vocalists. A Christian born in Beirut in 1934, Fairouz has popularized Arabic Christmas music for Christian communities around the Middle East.

The sacking of the Radio Serta employees caused a stir in Algeria and drew angry reactions on social media with many noting that Fairouz’ songs are played regularly and that some radio station even broadcast Mass for Catholics. 

Algerian Radio, however, denounced the controversy as “fake news” and said it is the victim of a “dubious and tendentious campaign.”

The stations further went on to praise the “diva” Fairouz “for whom the National Radio has immeasurable respect and esteem.”

The station claims that Boukerzaza was not fired but was demoted for issues unrelated to the Christmas song. 

Algerian laws regulating freedom of worship were passed in 2006 and called for imprisonment for anyone accused of attempting to convert or even “destabilize” the faith of a Muslim. Most Algerians Christians today are converts from Islam. In a nation of 43 million, the 129,000 Christians face a high threat of persecution and their freedoms are extremely limited. 

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