PLANS to stage an anti-American play featuring Osama bin Laden dressed up as Santa Claus in a city church on the anniversary of September 11 have sparked a furious row.
A Conservative front bench MSP today branded the production "intentionally provocative".
The controversial play by acclaimed playwright Andrew Dallmeyer, called Wanted: Dead or Alive, will be performed in the Augustine Church on George IV Bridge tomorrow night.
It tells the story of a man who works as Santa Claus in a shopping mall in Florida. As the play progresses it emerges that the man is actually Osama bin Laden in disguise.
The play contains strongly anti-American sentiments and condemns United States foreign policy.
Organisers of the event today admitted that they were staging it on the anniversary of the Twin Towers attack to provoke a debate on the US’s response.
The writer himself also defended his work, saying that the play did not support terrorism.
Mr Dallmeyer said: "Wanted - Dead or Alive is my response to the events of September 11.
"Rather than seek revenge, Americans should ask themselves why people hate them so much that they are prepared to kill themselves to inflict damage.
"In the play, the character does talk about US foreign policy and the play tries to explore why people hate America so much that they are willing to die to attack it. What motivates such strong passions?
"As a writer, it is interesting to try and look into the mind of people who are on the extremes, who feel so passionately about their cause. It is in no way supportive of terrorism. It is against violence, whether by al-Qaida or the US military."
The Edinburgh-based writer, who also stars in the show, said: "I do not believe it is insensitive to put the play on September 11. I would agree that it is designed to provoke debate."
The play has drawn criticism from Conservative front-bench MSP Brian Monteith, however. He said: "This is intentionally provocative. It is what we have come to expect from opponents of the war against terrorism.
"I would ask those supporting this play to consider how easy it would have been for them to put on a show critical of the Taliban in Kabul a year ago. They would have to acknowledge that no matter how distasteful their views they are at least allowed to put them forward. A spokeswoman at the US Consulate in Edinburgh today also criticised the timing of the play. She said: "Based on what I have been told, and without having seen it myself, it would certainly seem both insensitive and inappropriate for this play to be performed on September 11."
The play will be followed by a discussion on the war in Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism and US preparations to wage war on Iraq.
Organiser Mick Napier, of the Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition, admitted they were deliberately staging the play on September 11 to highlight the anti-war cause.
He said: "To those who say the timing is wrong, I would say we will remember the innocent American victims of the Twin Towers attack but at the same time remember victims of America. This event is an attempt to provide an open debate on the drive towards another war."
No one was available for comment at the Augustine Church.
All proceeds from tomorrow’s performance will go to subsidising transport to London on September 28 for a major anti-war demonstration.