A new film has been pulled from cinemas after being accused of “blasphemy”.
Goddess, directed by Eli King, tells the story of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad. It was billed as the first film to do so.
Cineworld has now decided to withdraw the release of the film after it faced opposition. Executive producer Malik Shlibak claims that he has received death threats.
Why is that so Goddess So controversial?
The depiction of Islamic prophets in films has long been a subject of controversy. While the Quran does not outright ban images of Muhammad, some teachings believe that visual depictions of Muslims are blasphemous.
However, due to divisions in the use of different schools of religion, this has become an extremely divisive topic. Most Sunni Muslims believe these depictions should be banned, while Shia Muslims generally accept such depictions if they are made respectfully.
Goddess received much criticism prior to its release, with Fars . news agency reports that “several prominent Islamic scholars have criticized the film for its “poor basic research and objectionable content”.
Criticism of the film has mainly focused on its portrayal of several minor characters, including the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr As-Sadiq, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab and Uthman Ibn Affan.
Britain’s 5Pillars Islamic Media has condemned the descriptions as “shocking and disgusting” after suggesting there were similarities between their actions and those of the Islamic State group in Iraq.
The Iranian government banned Goddess since its release, saying it is intended to divide Muslims. In the wake of the UK protests, eight Shia scholars in the country criticized the film, saying it would increase sectarian tensions among Muslims.
Protesters outside Cineworld claim freedom of speech should not extend to discussion of religion, with one saying: “You have no right to tell us our history. We won’t let this movie go any further.”
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Last weekend, hundreds of people turned out to protest against the film’s premiere in Bradford, Bolton, Birmingham and Sheffield.
Those who have seen the film report that the film begins with Isis’ invasion of Iraq and features jihadist murder graphic images, before charting Fatima’s life in the seventh century. In the film, Fatima’s face is never seen; instead, she is covered by a black curtain.
Following the protests, a Cineworld spokesperson said: “Due to recent incidents involving the GoddessWe have made the decision to cancel upcoming screenings of the film nationwide to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”
On the website of the film production company, Kingdom of Enlightenment, a note reads: “According to Islamic tradition, in the making of this film, no individual represented a Holy Personality.
“The performances of the Holy Persons were achieved through a unique synthesis of actors, in-camera effects, lighting and visual effects.”
In a statement on Sunday (June 5), the Muslim Council of Britain called the film “divisive”, stating:[We] support scholars and leaders who are campaigning for greater unity and the common good. There are some – including many who support this film or who engage in sectarianism in their response – whose primary goal is to promote hatred.”
As of writing, the film is available to watch in Vue cinemas, with a representative saying: “Vue takes seriously the responsibilities that come with providing a platform for a wide range of content and trusts into presenting films of interest to diverse communities across the UK.
“Decisions about the timing of a film are made on a location-by-site basis and are based on a variety of commercial and operational factors.”
Its statement came after a representative was forced to refuse to cancel showings of horror films whose footage was found Camera journey for being too “offensive”.