UK Cinema Chain Pulls ‘Blasphemous’ Film over ‘Safety Concerns’ After Muslim Backlash

Demonstrators opposing the publication in France of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad prote
David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Bowing to pressure from protests from Muslim groups, a British cinema chain has pulled all screenings of a supposedly “blasphemous” film that uses CGI to depict the prophet Mohammed and presents contested historical events.

On Tuesday, Cineworld announced that it would cancel all screenings of The Lady of Heaven, which had sparked protests from mostly Sunni Muslim groups, who have objected to the historical accuracy of the events during the life of Mohammed’s daughter Fatimah, a key point of contention between the two main sects of Islam.

The film has also drawn the ire of Muslim activists for its digital representation of the face of Mohammed with computer-generated images of many different faces to depict the Islamic prophet, which some have claimed is blasphemous.

Responding to a petition demanding the removal of the film from all British cinemas, Cineworld said: “Due to the recent incidents regarding screenings of ‘The Lady of Heaven,’ we have made the decision to cancel upcoming screenings of the film nationwide to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.”

This week several protests were held outside of cinemas by what appeared to be Sunni Muslim activists, chanting slogans such as “Allah hu Akbar”(Allah is greater [than your god]).

In footage posted on social media, one protester at the Cinemaworld theatre in Bradford can be heard proclaiming: “We have a right not to be insulted”.

Another said: “Birmingham will not tolerate the disrespect of our prophet and there will outcomes from your actions. You will have repercussions for your actions. We have been trained from birth that we must defend the honour of our prophet and we will lay our life on the line.”

Amid chants of “Allah hu Akbar”, another video appeared to show the manager of Sheffield Cineworld bending to the crowd’s demands and cancelling the screening of the film.

Other protesters were heard shouting “Kafir Kafir Shia Kafir”, an Arabic slogan describing Shia Muslims as non-believers.

Journalist and Associate Fellow at the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society think tank, Wasiq Wasiq claimed that the use of the phrase Kafir against Shia Muslims represented a form of Islamophobia, writing that it “is more than just sectarianism, it is anti-Muslim sectarianism and therefore anti-Muslim hatred.”

Wasiq also noted that the use of the phrase has been widely adopted by radical Sunni terrorist groups, including the so-called Islamic State to target “not only minority sects of Muslims in Iraq and Syria but also their fellow Muslims in the Sunni strand of Islam.”

Free speech advocate and Baroness of the House of Lords, Claire Fox described the decision to pull the film as the “creep of extra-parliamentary blasphemy law”.

“Same ‘I Find that Offensive’ cancel culture arguments now being used far beyond campus activism. Disastrous for the arts, dangerous for free speech, a lesson to those who argue identity politics are no threat to democracy,” Fox wrote.

In an article on Spiked Online, GB News host and political commentator Inaya Folarin Iman laid the blame for the film’s cancellation on the “self-flagellation and cowardice” of cultural elites in Britain whom she argued are “so beholden to the politics of identity and victimhood that they actually think the Muslim protesters have a point.”

“This is a deeply troubling moment for freedom of speech and tolerance in Britain. If our cultural and political leaders cannot be bothered to stand up for these fundamental values, then it is all too likely they will wither away. We can’t let this happen,” she urged.

Folarin Iman said that the same cultural rot had been responsible for “empowering” the protests against a British teacher last year who had shown his students a caricature of the Muslim prophet during a lesson on blasphemy, resulting in outrage within the local Islamic community in Batley and Spen.

The grammar school teacher and his family were forced into hiding after local activists leaked his identity, sparking fears that he could fall victim to a revenge attack, as befell Samuel Paty, a French teacher who was beheaded last year for showing his class a similar caricature of Mohammed.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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