GLASGOW: A Scottish cinema has come under fire for cancelling a screening of a 1977 film on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), despite receiving fewer than 100 complaints.
The Grosvenor Cinema in Glasgow was scheduled to screen Moustapha Akkad’s Oscar-nominated film ‘The Message’ about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the birth of Islam in December.
However, officials decided to withdraw the film after an anonymous petition signed by 94 people was received by the cinema. Some of the anonymous signs came from as far away as Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The withdrawal has been criticised by the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), which had organised the screening, and the National Secular Society (NSS).
The latter wrote to the cinema protesting what it called “a climate of censorship brought on by the unreasonable and reactionary views of some religious extremists”.
“It’s a sad sign of the times that such a small petition has forced the venue to cancel. We hope the cinema will change its position and not allow the weapon of offence to be used to restrict its freedom as a cinema to screen films and the freedom of audiences to watch them,” NSS campaign manager Stephen Evans said.
Further, a spokesperson for the ISB said, “As Scottish Muslims, we believe in the principles of freedom of speech and have worked for decades to promote the rights of people to make Islam relevant to British society. These protesters demonstrate the worst elements of our community, as they are imposing their beliefs on others.”
He added, “We will not be bullied by these people. We are also appealing for the Grosvenor to stick to the original agreement, and show the film.”
‘The Message’ exists in both English and Arabic but has been mired in controversy ever since Akkad announced plans to shoot the film in the mid-1970s. Hollywood had refused to fund the film which was then ultimately financed by Moroccan, Saudi Arabian and Libyan leaders.
Although the film avoids any depiction of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on screen, some scenes were shown from his perspective without the use of his voice. The only indication of his presence was the playing of light organ music.
Even so, the film drew anger from some Muslims who believed that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was being played by one of the characters.
Organisers of the petition against the screening of ‘The Message’, were concerned over the film’s depiction of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) companions by non-Muslims. They also object to the movie’s inclusion of occasional scenes featuring music and dancing.
Earlier this year, Iranian film Muhammad, Messenger of God drew a lot of criticism for including shots of the prophet’s hands and legs as a baby and his back as a teenager.
The film came under immense criticism and became the subject of a fatwa from Indian clerics, however, was chosen by Iran as its contender for the 2016 Oscars.
No public comment about the cancellation of the screening has been made by the Grosvenor Cinema thus far.