Columnist Saira Khan says venues like Cineworld should not jeopardize democracy by giving in to protesters who are intolerant of religion and aim to block freedom of expression
Image: Getty Images for Jane Owen PR)
If there’s one thing that makes you watch a movie you didn’t want to see, it has to be public demonstrations for it to be banned.
Take Monty Python’s Life of Brian – a comedy released more than 40 years ago about a man who is constantly mistaken for Jesus after being born the same day in the stable next door.
Some countries banned it, saying it offends Christianity.
It was only supposed to be shown in 200 theaters in the US, but after protests from various religious groups, the number of screens was tripled.
Obviously, there really is no such thing as bad PR. So the makers of the film The Lady of Heaven should be happy that a few hundred protesters are demanding that it be banned for blasphemy – and that everyone talks about it.
Executive Producer Malik Shlibak and Director Eli King tell the story of Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed.
Malik explained that since this religious character is “very holy to nearly two billion people,” he went to great lengths not to offend.
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
So Fatima’s face is never visible, it is completely covered by a black veil. But I’m really not shocked that there have been protests in Bradford, Leeds, Sheffield, Bolton, Blackburn and Birmingham.
A film about Islam that dares to explore different viewpoints will confound the pens of those who hold narrow beliefs about how their religion can be spoken about.
In a country built on freedom of speech, they have every right to share their opinions. However, I would ask if these people actually saw the film?
History tells us that those who join such protests often do so with only hearsay as justification.
Much of the anger here is directed at the film’s alleged “blasphemy.” But the common law offenses of blasphemy and blasphemous defamation were abolished in England and Wales in 2008 and in Scotland in 2021.
However, it is not the demonstrations that I resent. It is Cineworld and Showcase Cinemas’ decision to drop it.
Cineworld said: “Due to the recent incidents, we have made the decision to cancel screenings to ensure the safety of staff and customers.”
What a slap in the face to democracy, freedom of expression and people like me who have received death threats for speaking out against religious intolerance.
How weak of Cineworld to buckle so quickly in the face of a handful of demonstrators.
They don’t represent most Muslims – like my family and friends – who can watch a film about their faith and not be offended.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/cinemas-must-stand-firm-against-27207682 "Cinemas must stand up to mob pleading to ban films and curb freedom of expression" - Saira Khan