No welcome for Noah
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.”