A Mumbai-based Sunni Muslim organisation has approached the Union Home Minister and the Iranian Consulate in India seeking a ban on the latest Majid Majidi film Muhammad: Messenger of God, calling it “blasphemous for more than one reason”.
In a memorandum sent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Raza Academy has also sought “legal action” against composer A R Rahman, who has given music for the film, for “hurting the sentiments of Indian Muslims”.
The film by the renowned director is the first of a trilogy on the life of Muhammad, and shows his childhood and adolescence till he becomes a prophet.
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After its world premiere on August 27 at the Montreal Film Festival, Muhammad: Messenger of God opened in Iran simultaneously in 57 screens but it is yet to release in other parts of the world.
Demanding “action against the filmmakers”, Mohammed Saeed Noori, founder secretary of the Raza Academy, wrote in the memorandum: “Firstly, the name of the prophet shouldn’t be in the film’s title. People use a film’s name loosely, like when someone says bad things about the film, it sounds like an insult to Muhammad himself. Secondly, photography isn’t allowed in Islam. We have a problem with various actors shown playing Muhammad.”
Since visual descriptions of the prophet is prohibited in Islam, Majidi has chosen not to show the face of Muhammad in the film, keeping in mind religious sentiments. The Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, has worked on various combinations of light and darkness to make this possible. Yet, the film has sparked controversy outside Iran — the Islamic Research Academy, associated with the Al Azhar mosque of Egypt, issued a statement condemning it, and Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti also spoke against the film.
However, Muhammad: Messenger of God has received the support of the Iranian government, which has partly funded the film. Majidi, the 56-year-old director, has made acclaimed films such as Colour of Paradise (1999) and Children of Heaven (1997), which was nominated at the Oscars for the Best Foreign film category.
“The film is being dubbed in many languages and likely to be released all around the world. That will make it worse. Since Iran is an Islamic country, there has not been much furore over this. Irrespective of creed, everyone deserves the same punishment for committing a crime,” said Noori. He also claimed that the Iranian Consulate in Mumbai refused to meet a five-member delegation from the academy, led by him, on Thursday,despite having an appointment.
When contacted, an official at the Consulate denied that the delegation was given an appointment. “Apparently, the Raza Academy members had come for a meeting with us but there was no appointment, and hence, we couldn’t receive them.”