Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the biblical epic Noah, joining other Muslim nations that forbid the Hollywood movie for its visual depiction of the prophet.
Film censors in both countries yesterday said that the portrayal of the ark-building prophet by Russell Crowe was against Islamic laws. Depictions of any prophet are shunned in Islam to avoid worship of a person rather than God.
“The film Noah is not allowed to be screened in this country to protect the sensitivity and harmony in Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-religious community,” Film Censorship Board chairman Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid said in a statement.
The head of Indonesia’s censor board, Muchlis Paeni, said the plot of the film directed by Darren Aronofsky contradicted both the Koran and the Bible.
“We have to reject Noah to be screened here,” Paeni said. “We don’t want a film that could provoke controversies and negative reactions.”
The Indonesian Council of Ulama, the country’s most influential Islamic body, welcomed the move, saying films that could corrupt religious teachings should be outlawed.
Many Indonesians condemned the ban on social media.
“The decision was very regrettable, so sad,” filmmaker Joko Anwar said on Twitter, warning it was a backward step for Indonesia.
Much of the Muslim world, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, has already banned the film, which is a hit at US box offices. Some Christian conservatives have complained of its inaccurate portrayal of the biblical account of the flood.
Paramount Pictures added a disclaimer to its marketing material, saying “artistic license has been taken” in telling the story.
The Koran mentions only 25 prophets by name, including Noah. Muslims believe that Noah, who is referred to in Arabic as Nuh, built his ark after God charged him to do it as people in his community refused to worship God alone.
While there are differences between the biblical and Koranic story of Noah, both mention a terrible flood and Noah’s vessel saving a pair of each species of animal.