The upcoming Paramount Pictures movie Noah has begun to cause jitters in the Muslim World with the Egypt-based Al Azhar ruling that the careening the biblical production is prohibited in Islam.
“Al Azhar prohibits the screening of a film that characterizes Noah,” reads the title of a statement ‘issued on Thursday by the top Muslim institution.
“Al Azhar renews its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah’s prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Mohammad],” the Azhar statement said.
It explained that such productions are “contrary to faith and to the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharia and provokes people’s feelings.”
“Therefore, Al Azhar announces the prohibition of the upcoming film about the Allah’s messenger Noah - peace be upon him.”
It argues that the film contains “personal characterization” of Noah, which is “prohibited in Islamic Shariah… and constitutes a clear violation of the principles of Islamic law stipulated by the Constitution.”
“Al Azhar as a reference in the Islamic affairs urges the authorities to ban the film,” the statement said.
The film, slated for release on March 28, has been recently criticized by several Muslim figures in Egypt.
Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed, a member of the Salafi Call, was quoted by Youm7 on Wednesday as saying: “Depicting prophets in art is a crime; not art, that is harmful to the image of prophets.”
“Depicting prophets opens the door for questioning their behavior … Actors cannot accurately imitate the behaviors, manners and appearances of prophets,” Abdel Hameed added.
Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, the Biblical Noah suffers visions of an apocalyptic flood and moves to protect his family from the anticipated catastrophe.
“The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license 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 biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis,” reads the film disclaimer.
The controversy surrounding Noah has emerged just days after "Son of God," another biblical big-screen production, had a blockbuster opening last week. It remains unknown, however when and where the film will be shown in cinemas across the Middle East.
“Son of God” has received scare coverage in Arab media and is perhaps comparable to the 2004 release of Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” which was lauded by some in the region, but banned by more conservative Arab states.
But much has changed since the 2004. Political Islam and an Islamist militant insurgency have swelled throughout the region, following the Arab Spring uprisings. Also, a 2012 film mocking Prophet Mohammad aggravated Muslims across the world.
Billed as a film trailer, the “Innocence of Muslims“ video depicted the Prophet as a fool and a sexual deviant. It sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest among Muslims in Egypt, Libya and other countries in 2012.
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