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A film about the daughter of the prophet Muhammad has been pulled from the cinemas of one of the U.K.’s biggest chains following protests accusing the feature of blasphemy.
Cineworld, which also owns the Regal chain in the U.S., said it was canceling all upcoming screenings of The Lady of Heaven “due to related incidents” and to “ensure the safety of our staff and customers.”
Protests erupted in front of cinemas in several U.K. cities after the film, from director Eli King and writer Sheikh Al-Habibi, began showing over the bank holiday weekend for the Queen’s jubilee.
Telling the story of Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad who lived in the 7th century, The Lady in Heaven also makes links between the Islamic State militant group and various historical figures in Islam. It opens with the invasion of Iraq by ISIS, featuring a graphic murder. With Islam forbidding the direct portrayal of religious figures, Fatima is seen as a faceless character, shrouded by a black veil.
Protestors accused the film of inaccurately and negatively depicting some of Islam’s most important figures. More than 120,000 people have signed a petition calling for it to be pulled from U.K. cinemas.
In an email to Cineworld, reported by local newspaper Bolton News, Bolton Council of Mosques chair Asif Patel described the film as “blasphemous,” claiming that it was “underpinned with a sectarian ideology” and “misrepresents orthodox historical narratives and disrespects the most esteemed individuals of Islamic history.”
However, while film’s executive producer Malik Shlibak said he welcomed people expressing their views, he argued cinemas should “stand up and defend their right to show films that people want to see.”
Speaking to The Guardian, he accused cinemas of “crumbling to the pressure, and taking these decisions to quell the noise,” adding that the film was an “artistic endeavor talking about and elaborating on history and religion, which always has a plethora of different takes and interpretations.”
The Lady of Heaven isn’t the only film to be yanked from theaters in the U.K. in recent weeks. In late May, Dashcam, the provocative horror movie from fast-rising Host director Rob Savage, was pulled from Vue Cinemas. According to the chain’s customer support, the feature — produced by Blumhouse — was pulled after being deemed potentially offensive for its audiences. However, in a follow-up statement to the Film Stories website, it claimed that the decision was “informed purely by the commercial conditions not being viable.”
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