AMBER VERNETTI WRITES – Just before its global premier, the Hollywood-produced film Noah was banned from the silver screen in three Arab countries, including Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, due to its religious themes.

The $125 million film, starring Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins, features the biblical story of Noah, who the Bible reports built an ark to survive the great flood in the Book of Genesis. NOAH

A representative from Paramount Pictures confirmed the film’s ban in the three Arab states, adding, “The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because ‘it contradicts the teachings of Islam.’” Despite this reasoning, the story of Noah is respected by followers of Christianity, as well as Judaism and Islam. The Koran even contains a chapter solely focused on Noah.

In fact, the manager of media content tracking at the UAE’s National Media Council, Juma Obeid Al Leem said, “We haven’t decided whether it is OK or not. We will decide after watching the full movie next week and after a report is made.”

Al-Azhar, the ultimate authority in all matters concerning Sunni Islam, also released a fatwa (a religious order) that condemned the film. The fatwa stated, “Al-Azhar … renews its objection to any act depicting the messengers and prophets of God and the companions of the Prophet (Mohammad), peace be upon him.” A movie like Noah is “forbidden in Islam and a clear violation of Islamic law.”

In the past, films with other religious affiliations, such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, made the big screen with minor objections by Muslim clergymen.

Regardless of its unwelcome status in the UAE, Noah is set to be released on March 25 in the United States. With any luck for the filmmakers, the only protest the film will receive is from young girls when Crowe is not shirtless.