CAIRO: Al-Azhar condemned Sunday the call of a member of its senior scholars on authorities to “destroy” any movie theater that screens the movie “Noah,” which depicts the character of Prophet Noah.
Al-Azhar released a statement to confirm its rejection to violence or calling for it, while affirming that embodying prophets, companions of the Prophet [Muhammad] and his wives in arts is religiously forbidden, and whoever watches these arts is sinner.
The statement affirmed that responsibility of banning such movies is not the prerogative of Al-Azhar, but the prerogative of Information and Culture ministries. Al-Azhar has addressed the two ministries officially Sunday to prevent screening the movie in Egypt.
Mahmoud Mehanna, member of Al-Azhar’s Senior Scholars, called on authorities to “destroy” any movie theater that screens “Noah” and is “not simply close it down,” in press statements on March 4.
Not only Al-Azhar objected to screen the movie in theaters, the Salafi Call too denounced that, according to Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed, member of the Call, who said depicting prophets in art was a “crime, not art,” and harms the image of prophets.
Minister of Religious Endowment Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa rejected displaying the film too and renewed the ban of displaying it, due to it violates Sharia principles and the constitution, Gomma said in a statement on March 6, 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.
The movie sparked outrage amidst the Egyptians and Arab countries, who demanded its ban. The film boards of Qatar, Bahrain, and the U.A.E. informed Paramount, the production company, that they would not be permitting screenings in their respective countries, according to Daily Mail newspaper.
Abdel Satar Fathy, who is in charge of artistic control on 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 reservations to see the movie at first 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 who 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 Noah is played 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.
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, and 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.