An unprecedented animated film about the life of the Prophet Mohammed must pass muster at Al Azhar, the millenium-old "fortress" of Sunni Islam, clerics said Tuesday, which would free it up to be shown in the Muslim world without problems.
The film, "Mohammed, the Last Prophet," by former Disney director Richard Rich, was approved in principle on May 16 by Al Azhar's Center for Islamic Research provided that an image of the prophet's paternal uncle is removed.
Islam has traditionally frowned on portraying any human form, especially those of the prophet and his family.
But the research center's secretary general, Sheikh Sayyed Abu Aggur, who has the final say on the film, said removal of the image of the uncle, Abu Talib, was only one step.
Aggur told AFP that Al-Azhar must als "run the film in its final version before a committee including a Muslim director, an ulema specialized in the history of Islam and experts in cartoons to study the film's impact on children."
The 90-minute animated film tells how the prophet more than 1,400 years ago preached in the Arabian holy city of Mecca, the difficulties he found, his departure for Medina and the battles he fought to spread the message of Islam.
The film, which has both an Arabic and English version, targets the world's one billion Muslims, according to the production company Badr International Corp., registered in the British Virgin Islands.
It was designed in Burbank, California under the supervision of Islamic law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Khaled Abu Al Fadhl, according to Badr International.
The producers and directors avoided personifying the prophet, who is represented by a bright light and off-screen voice.
Al Azhar, the highest authority for the world's majority Sunni Muslims, describes itself the "fortress of Islam" against atheism and depravity and frequently comments on films, books and other cultural works.
Its approval of the film will make it easy to pass the censors in Egypt, where Al Azhar has direct influence, as well as in other Arab and Muslim countries where it also has clout -- AFP
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