No wel­come for Noah

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - NOAH Opens at Vil­lage Cin­e­mas on March 27

BY AYA BATRAWY

OF­FI­CIALS across much of the Mus­lim world say the up­com­ing big- budget Hol­ly­wood fi lm Noah, fea­tur­ing Rus­sell Crowe as the ark- build­ing prophet, will not be shown in lo­cal cin­e­mas be­cause it could of­fend view­ers.

The de­ci­sion comes af­ter the fi lm sparked con­tro­versy among con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians in the US, which prompted Para­mount Pic­tures to add a dis­claimer to its mar­ket­ing ma­te­rial say­ing that “artis­tic li­cence has been taken” in telling the story.

Di­rec­tor of me­dia con­tent at the Na­tional Me­dia Cen­tre in the United Arab Emi­rates Juma Al- Leem said the movie would not be al­lowed in lo­cal cin­e­mas be­cause it con­tra­dicts a gen­er­ally held taboo in Is­lam of de­pict­ing a prophet.

“There are scenes that con­tra­dict Is­lam and the Bi­ble, so we de­cided not to show it,” he said, adding UAE cen­sors watched the fi lm be­fore de­cid­ing to ban it.

“It is im­por­tant to re­spect these reli­gions and not show the fi lm.”

Para­mount Pic­tures said that, along with the UAE, cen­sors in Qatar and Bahrain had also confi rmed they would not re­lease the fi lm be­cause “it con­tra­dicts the teach­ings of Is­lam”.

One of Is­lam’s most revered re­li­gious in­sti­tu­tions, Al- Azhar in Egypt, is­sued an edict say­ing it ob­jected to the fi lm be­cause it vi­o­lated Is­lamic law by de­pict­ing a prophet and that this could “pro­voke the feel­ings of be­liev­ers”.

Among Mus­lims, de­pic­tions of any prophets are shunned to avoid wor­ship of a per­son rather than God. In many Mus­lim- ma­jor­ity coun­tries blas­phemy is a crime.

The Ko­ran men­tions only 25 prophets by name, and Noah is one of them. Mus­lims be­lieve that Noah, who is re­ferred to in Ara­bic as Nuh, built his ark af­ter God told him to do it be­cause people in his com­mu­nity re­fused to wor­ship God alone. While there are dif­fer­ences be­tween the bi­b­li­cal and Ko­ranic story of Noah, both men­tion a ter­ri­ble fl ood and Noah’s ves­sel sav­ing a pair of each kind of an­i­mal.

Offi cials in other Mus­lim- ma­jor­ity coun­tries said it was likely govern­ment cen­sors would not ap­prove the movie.

Mo­ham­mad Za­reef, an offi cial with Pak­istan’s Cen­tral Board of Film Cen­sors, said the govern­ment body gen­er­ally did not ap­prove fi lms that touch on re­li­gion.

“We haven’t seen it yet, but I don’t think it can go to cin­e­mas in Pak­istan,” he said.

Tu­nisian Cul­ture Min­istry spokesman Faisal Rokh said the govern­ment did not au­tho­rise the screen­ing of fi lms that cover the lives of prophets. There have not been any re­quests by lo­cal dis­trib­u­tors to show the movie, he added.

There are many chil­dren’s fi lms and car­toons cre­ated that tell the story of Noah in Is­lam with­out show­ing his face. How­ever, there have been cases where prophets or their com­pan­ions have been shown on screens in the Mid­dle East.

De­spite some ob­jec­tions, the pop­u­lar MBC Ara­bic satel­lite net­work broad­cast a tele­vi­sion se­ries in 2012 on the life of Omar ibn al- Khat­tab, one of the Prophet Mo­hammed’s most revered com­pan­ions. Mel Gibson’s fi lm The Pas­sion Of The

Christ, which de­picts the cru­cifi xion of Je­sus, was screened across much of the re­gion but was not shown in most cin­e­mas in Is­rael and parts of the Gulf.

In Oc­to­ber 2011, a pri­vate tele­vi­sion sta­tion screened the an­i­mated fi lm Perse­po­lis, which in­cludes an out­right por­trayal of God. It sparked ri­ots and demon­stra­tions in Tu­nisia. The head of the TV sta­tion was later con­victed of an “at­tack on the sa­cred” and fi ned $ 1850.

Like Saudi Ara­bia, the Pales­tinian Gaza strip does not have cin­e­mas. One theatre in the Pales­tinian West Bank said it has or­dered the fi lm.

“The fact that some coun­tries in the re­gion pro­hibit it makes it the more fun to watch,” Clack Cin­ema man­ager Quds Manasra said.

“The pro­duc­tion is mag­nifi cent, the story is beau­ti­ful.”

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