Noah causes outcry among Azhar and religious institutes
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CAIRO: The Council of Senior Scholars and the Islamic Research Complex objected to the screening of the film ‘Noah’ because they depicted Prophet Noah, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar Abass Shoman said in a statement on Thursday.

Depicting prophets in movies, art, or animation is incompatible with Islam’s religious values and might affect the faith of Muslims, according to Al-Azhar.

This might mean that the movie will not screen in Egypt since showing the film without Azhar’s approval is considered a violation of the constitution.

‘Noah’ is set to screen in Egyptian cinemas on March 26 starring Russell Crowe as Noah. The film discusses the story of Noah’s Ark and the flood sent by God to destroy the sin of mankind. Noah is assigned to perform the divine mission by building an ark those innocent from sin from the flood.

Shoman objected the screening this film. He called on the concerned ministries and departments to do the required procedures to prevent the film from being screened. He said Azhar took all the required procedures to ban the film from cinemas.

He said Azhar is authorized to “dawa” proselytize and preach Islam and according to the constitution, all authorities and governmental and nongovernmental departments should take into account Azhar’s religious opinion towards such issues.

Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa rejected displaying the film and renewed the ban of displaying it.

Embodying the character of any prophet or the companions of the prophet [Muhammad] is a blatant violation to the Sharia principles and the constitution, Gomma said in a statement Thursday, clarifying Azhar’s opinion is “to ban the screening of the film” given its basic reference in the Islamic affairs in accordance to the constitution.

“Azhar reiterates its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah’s prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad],” the Azhar statement released said on Thursday.

It explained that such productions are “contrary to the eminence/dignity of the prophets and the apostles, faith and to the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharia and provokes people’s feelings. Azhar as a reference in the Islamic affairs urges the concerned bodies to ban the film.”

The movie sparked outrage amidst the Egyptians and Arab countries, who demanded its ban. The film boards of Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE informed Paramount, the production company, that they would not be permitting screenings in their respective countries, according to Daily Mail newspaper.

Depicting prophets in art is a “crime, not art, that is harmful to the image of prophets,” Salafi Call member Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed told Youm7 on March 4. “Depicting prophets opens the door for doubting the behavior of prophets.”

It is not the first time for a film to face criticism and to spark the outcry of religious organizations. There was another similar controversy after the release of ‘The Passion of the Christ’ (2004) that depicted the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ.

In 2012, a television series depicting the life of second Muslim Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab also sparked a heightened debate in the Arab world with thousands opposing the depiction of Prophet Muhammad or his companions.

Abdel Satar Fathy, who is in charge of the artistic control on the foreign movies, said Al-Azhar’s objection to the film is a “big exaggeration more that it is worth.” He said the film should be displayed and is against confiscation or banning it.

Abdel Sattar had reservation to see the movie at first just hearing it since it is about prophet Noah, he said in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV Thursday. “But after I watched it, I found it is totally far from the character of the prophet Noah. It was about a vision to an ancient epoch and did not inspire events or stories from Quran or Bible.”

“After watching the film, I found the events were normal and anybody would like to release a statement or to object should watch the film first and then object or express their opinion.”

For appeasing the religious movie critics, Paramount production company added a disclaimer to their promotional material for ‘Noah:’ “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.”

Noah is directed by Darren Aronofsky and played Noah is acted by Russell Crowe. It is about a man who sees visions of a destructive, apocalyptic flood. He tries to protect his family and as many animals as he can from the anticipated catastrophe by building an ark after believing that such visions are messages from God.

The film budget is 130 million dollars, according to Daily Mail.

Additional reporting by Amany Abdel Raouf and Muhammad Ghamrawy.

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