Channel 4's alternative Christmas speech will this year be given by a Muslim woman wearing a full veil.

Khadija, a teaCher and lecturer in Islamic studies and the Koran, will wear a niqab for the ten-minute broadcast on Christmas Day at 15:00 GMT - the time that the Queen's speech is aired.

The channel said that it had made the decision for Khadija to give the alternative message due to events in the past year that have stirred up racial debates  a year "in which issues of religious and racial identity, freedom of expression and social cohesion have dominated the news agenda".

A spokesman for Channel 4 commented: "The right to wear religious symbols from niqabs to crucifixes, remarks made by the Pope about Islam and the publication of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed have all generated a debate about multiculturalism, secularism and integration.

"It's a debate in which British Muslims have played a key role and one that will shape the future of British society."

Previous speeches have been given by Ali G  currently famous for his creator Sacha Baron Cohen's role as Borat  Sharon Osbourne and The Simpsons.

05/12/2006 16:14:00