'Noah' Banned in Several Middle Eastern Countries

Censor boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have informed Paramount they will not release the Biblical epic, which begins its global rollout later this month.

Darren Aronofsky's Noah -- inspired by the Biblical story of Noah's ark -- is starting to come under fire in the Middle East for contradicting Islamic law by portraying a prophet.

On Thursday, censorship boards in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates informed Paramount they will not allow the release of the film. Similar rulings are expected in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait, according to Paramount insiders.

In Egypt, the leading Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar issued a statement on Thursday condemning the Paramount movie, saying it should be banned in that country.

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“Al-Azhar renews its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah’s prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad],” the statement read. “Therefore, Al-Azhar announces the prohibition of the upcoming film about the Allah’s messenger Noah -- peace be upon him.”

Al-Azhar said any such film is “contrary to faith and to the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharia [law]," adding that such movies antagonize the "feelings of the faithful."

Paramount insiders say the studio knew going in that Noah could face issues in Muslim countries.

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Noah is tentatively scheduled to open in Egypt on March 26, two days before its launch in the U.S., where it also has come under fire from some church leaders for its dark portrayal of Noah, played by Russell Crowe.

In a gesture of goodwill toward religious groups, Paramount agreed last week to alter the marketing materials for Noah to make clear that it is a creative rather than a literal adaptation of the Bible story.

Noah also stars Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and Ray Winstone.