Three Arab countries have banned the Hollywood blockbuster Noah on religious grounds even before its worldwide premiere and several others are expected to follow suit.
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,” said a representative of Paramount Pictures, which produced the $125 million film starring Oscar-winners Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins.
“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 US on 28 March. 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, issued a fatwa, or religious injunction, against the film on Thursday.
Mel Gibson’s 2004 film The Passion Of The Christ depicting Jesus’s crucifixion was widely screened in the Arab World, despite a flurry of objections by Muslim clerics.
The Noah trailer depicts a burly Crowe wielding an axe and computer-animated geysers swamping an army of sinners hoping to board his ark.