Elmo New Muslim Goodwill Ambassador
Sept. 24, 2006
Mecca, Saudi Arabia (AP) - In an effort to develop a more favorable public image, Islamic leaders today announced the hiring of lovable Muppet, Elmo, as their "Goodwill Ambassador."
Well known the world over, Elmo, who got his start in 1984 as a minor character on Sesame Street, became an instant celebrity upon the release of the Tickle-Me-Elmo doll for Christmas 1996. Adding to his popularity were his appearances on the talk-show circuit, including The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Martha Stewart Living, and The Tony Danza Show.
The late 90's saw Elmo star in several feature films, mostly aimed at children. He even dabbled in politics, appearing in 2002 before the House Appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad officially introduced Elmo to members of the media, praising him for his work in "binding relations with all children, regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion. Except, of course, the Jews, who have repeatedly tried to tarnish his image with false accusations."
Ahmabinejad was referring to the 1995 controversy surrounding Elmo's self-help book, Potty Time With Elmo, when a mother, reportedly with ties to Israel, complained publicly that pressing certain buttons on the interactive book caused Elmo to say "Uh oh. Who wants to die?"
Moshe Katsav, President of Israel, when questioned by reporters about Ahmabinejad's claims, responded by saying "The people of Israel, and, I believe I can safely say, all Jewish people, have never said or done anything to tarnish the image of Elmo, or anyone associated with Elmo. In fact, we look forward to working closely with him in his new role."
After the long introduction by Ahmabinejad, during which Elmo appeared to fall asleep several times, the lovable red puppet took the podium and made a short statement, noting "Elmo loves Islam!" and "When you've done the best you could you feel really really good." When asked about the strategy he would take to boost the popularity of Islam, he said "Happy's such a neat emotion. It'll give your feet a happy notion. If your toes get tired rub in some lotion, and they'll feel swell, so come join Elmo!"
Following the press conference, Elmo boarded an airplane assumed to be bound for Afghanistan, where he reportedly will meet with Osama bin Laden at a secret location. On the tarmac, when asked where he was going, Elmo had a quick "Elmo has no comment." But added, "Took off in Elmo's jet. A ride we won't forget. And bailed out just below a huge tall mountain. We climbed for hours and hours. Then found some spooky towers. Inside we helped a fellow with his counting."
U.S. President George Bush released a statement about the Elmo appointment, noting that "Elmo has been an ambassador of love for many years, raising the spirits of all children, including Muslims." Bush also challenged Elmo to turn the "axis of evil" into the "axis of Elmo."
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his country's willingness to "sit down face-to-face with Elmo."
Hifikepunye Pohamba, President of Namibia, released a short statement, in which he asked, "Who's Elmo?" and reaffirmed the desire of the Namibian people to lift the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba.
Fidel Castro, Cuba's President-for-Life, on his weekly 10-hour radio address, called Elmo a "hero" and reminisced about his joy while playing with the toys Let's Pretend Elmo and Limbo Elmo; both, he noted, reminded him of himself.
Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, alleged that the idea of using Elmo had been his, and that it came to him in a vision. ""I saw an Elmo in the sky," Farrakhan said, after which the UFO "brought me back to Earth and dropped me off near Washington; over to Tyson's Corner and Fifth Street I think..."
Even Bill Gates, Founder and President of Microsoft, expressed his pleasure with the Elmo appointment. "This is the best thing to happen to the world since the United Nations."
Most Muslims seemed to be happy about the effort to change people's perception of their religion, though one Islamic group, Hezbollah, issued a terse statement, imploring Muslims not to fall for "the Great Satan's toy."
One notable American seemed dismayed with the idea of Elmo altogether. Colin Powell, former U.S. Secretary of State, pointed out "Elmo is three and a half years old. I mean, he's a red toy. I don't get it."