Denying international media reports of a ban in the UAE on Hollywood’s upcoming movie Noah on religious grounds, the country’s National Media Council (NMC) has said that a decision is yet to be taken.
A report by Reuters quoting a representative of Paramount Pictures said on Saturday that three Arab countries have banned the Hollywood film Noah  on religious grounds even before its worldwide premiere and several others are expected to follow suit.
“Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE officially confirmed this week that the film will not release in their countries,” a representative of Paramount Pictures, which produced the $125 million film starring [ Jennifer Connelly and ] Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins said.
However, Juma Al Leem, head of Media Content at NMC, the body that regulates media content in the UAE, said that the council was yet to review the film. “How can there be a ban when we have not yet seen the film?” he questioned. “The NMC is expected to take a decision after watching the movie either today or tomorrow,” he told Khaleej Times.
The film will premiere in the United States on March 28.
“The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because ‘it contradicts the teachings of Islam’,” Reuters quoted the Paramount representative as saying, adding the studio expected a similar ban in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait. Noah, who in the Bible’s Book of Genesis built the ark that saved his family and many pairs of animals from a great flood, is revered by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. An entire chapter in the Holy Quran is devoted to him.
Cairo’s Al Azhar issued a fatwa, or religious injunction, against the film on Thursday. “Al Azhar ... renews its objection to any act depicting the messengers and prophets of God and the companions of the Holy Prophet (Muhammad — peace be upon him),” it announced in a statement. They “provoke the feelings of believers ... and are forbidden in Islam and is a clear violation of Islamic law,” the fatwa added.
Noah, whose official video trailer  depicts a burly Crowe wielding an axe and computer-animated geysers swamping an army of sinners hoping to board his ark, has also stoked religious controversy at home. Jerry A. Johnson, president of a conservative National Religious Broadcasters group, said last month he wanted to “make sure everyone who sees this impactful film knows this is an imaginative interpretation of scripture, and not literal.” Paramount responded by agreeing to issue a disclaimer on advertising for the film.
“While artistic licence has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide,” the advisory reads.
By Asma Ali Zain