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, a representative of Paramount Pictures told Reuters on Saturday.
Islam frowns upon representing holy figures in art and depictions of the Prophet Mohammad in European and North American media have repeatedly sparked deadly protests in Islamic countries over the last decade, fanning cultural tensions with the West.
“Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) 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 Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, told Reuters.
“The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because ‘it contradicts the teachings of Islam’,” the representative said, adding the studio expected a similar ban in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait.
The film will premiere in the United States on March 28.
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 Koran is devoted to him.
Cairo’s Al-Azhar, the highest authority of Sunni Islam and a main centre of Islamic teaching for over a millennium, 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 Prophet (Mohammad), peace be upon him,” it announced in a statement.
They “provoke the feelings of believers … and are forbidden in Islam and a clear violation of Islamic law,” the fatwa added.
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ” on Jesus’s crucifixion was widely screened in the Arab World, despite a flurry of objections by Muslim clerics.
A 2012 Arab miniseries “Omar” on the exploits of a seventh century Muslim ruler and companion of the Prophet Mohammad also managed to defy clerics’ objections and air on a Gulf-based satellite television channel.