CAIRO: The movie “Noah” starring Russell Crowe aroused controversy in Egypt, particularly after the Islamic institution Al-Azhar issued a press release on Thursday to prohibit screening the movie which was scheduled on March 26.
Azhar’s decision to prohibit screening the movie depended on its fatwa in 1926, which outlawed artistic depictions of prophets and the companions of Prophet Mohamed arguing that this would be inconsistent with Islamic thought and would provoke Muslims’ feelings.
“Regarding Noah, it’s a direct violation for the Islamic Sharia that prohibits playing the prophets,” Azhar’s press release stated, while a member of the Council of Senior Scholars affiliates to Al-Azhar even demanded to “destruct the cinemas which screen the movie.”
However, the artistic movement Creativity Front issued a press release on its Facebook on Friday stating that “allowing or prohibiting movies is the responsibilities of the ministries of Culture and Media not related to Al-Azhar.”
The front explained that the statement of Al-Azhar is considered a violation of the responsibilities of the Censorship Authority, which specializes in evaluating movies to decide if it’s suitable to be screened depending on social and technical standards. The press release added that there is no clear or direct text in the Quran and Hadith (sayings of Prophet Mohamed) about prohibiting that.
The Christian director Romany Sabry told The Cairo Post Saturday that clergymen are closed-minded regarding social and artistic issues and that they have “taboos.” He added that in this specific case we have to ask Al-Azhar about its reasons to allow screening “The Passion of the Christ” that screens Prophet Jesus in 2004. He said Azhar prohibited “Noah” as it is based on the prophet’s story according to the Christian Gospel and on the Quran.
Sabry criticized the clergymen’s control on artistic works, giving example of the refusal of the Coptic Church to screen the Egyptian movie “I like Cinema” which showed a Christian bigoted family, that was not refused by Al-Azhar as it was not related to Islamic issues.
He also noted the Coptic Church has not commented on “Noah,” but he thinks that it would welcome screening it.
The art critic Tareq al-Shenawy told The Cairo Post that Azhar didn’t prohibit “The Passion of the Christ,” while it completely conflicted with Islamic thought that denies the crucifixion of Jesus. Besides, Al-Azhar did accept to screen the movie “al-Resala,” which showed the companions of Prophet Mohamed including his uncle Hamza Ibn Abd el-Muttaleb.
Shenawy said “al-Resala” was prohibited from 1977 to 2007, when the head of the Radio and Television Union Suzan Hassan asked the then-Azhar Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawy a permission to screen the film. Reportedly Tantawy and he just asked her “if the film includes any scenes that harm Islam?” and when she said “no,” Tantawy said agreed to screen the movie on official state TV.