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Malaysia joined several Middle Eastern nations and neighboring Indonesia on Thursday, banning Darren Aronofsky‘s biblical epic Noah as a “precaution” over its perceived violations of Islamic law.
Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said the film is being withheld from local cinemas because it could be considered insensitive to Muslims.
“The movie is banned because for us Muslims, we believe in Prophet Noah (Nabi Nuh) and according to Islamic teachings, it is prohibited to act out any characters of a prophet, Abdul Hamid told Malaysia daily The Sun. “Any depiction of any prophet is prohibited in Islam.”
In March, censorship boards in Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt , the United Arab Emirates and Indonesia informed Paramount that they were prohibiting the film for similar reasons.
A dark telling of the biblical story of Noah’s Ark, the film features Russell Crowe as its Sharia law-violating onscreen prophet. The film co-stars Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson and Jennifer Connelly.
Although Malaysia has large Chinese and Hindi Indian populations, Islam is followed by 61 percent of the multicultural country’s 30 million citizens. Whether Malaysia should be a secular or Islamic state is an ongoing cause of debate in the country.
While Noah took some early criticism from Christian groups over its somewhat unconventional take on the cherished biblical story, it won over faith-based and mainstream audiences following its March 28th U.S. release, opening to $44 million in North America.
Crowe had said he wouldn’t be surprised if the film were banned in some Islamic countries. But he lobbied hard for a positive reception among Christian groups. He waged a Twitter campaign encouraging Pope Francis to see the film, and eventually briefly met the pontiff during his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square. Ahead of Noah‘s U.K. release, Crowe also managed to score a sit-down with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior member of the church in Britain.
All this despite director Darron Aronofsky labeling his movie “the least biblical biblical film ever made.”
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