Art & Design | Citizenship | RE | PSHE

‘Blasphemous’ film cancelled after protests

Was Cineworld right? One writer has called the UK cinema chain shameful for dropping The Lady of Heaven. But the film’s producers have defended the rights of the protesters.  Gunfire rings out across the square. Members of Islamic State fire into the air. A boy is left cowering, his mother dead.  Soon the boy’s luck changes. An elderly woman gives him a new home. “Did your mother ever tell you the story of the lady of heaven?” she asks.  This is the opening scene of The Lady of Heaven, a historical drama telling the story of Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Muhammad.  But some may struggle to see the film. This week, cinema chain Cineworld cancelled all showings, just days after its UK release.  The reason? Hundreds of protestors accused the film’s creators of blasphemy.  The protestors were outraged by the decision to show the film. Now, others are outraged by the decision to cancel it. Tensions are running high.  The Lady of Heaven’s producers claim to give a face to the prophet Muhammad. Many Muslims find this offensive. But there is another issue.  Critics of the film, created by a Shia cleric, say it will cause divisions between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Much of the controversy relates to the opening scene, set in Iraq in 2014. A woman named Fatima is killed by terrorists. Some Sunni viewers believe the film compares the prophet’s closest friends with Islamic State.  But others say that Cineworld has made the wrong decision. People should be free to dislike the film, insists producer Malik Shlibak, but not ban it.  The cinema’s decision is “disastrous for the arts and dangerous for free speech”, says British peer Baroness Claire Fox. “Occasionally feeling offended is the price we pay for living in a free society,” adds one writer.  This is not the first blasphemy row in the UK. It is unlikely to be the last either. But there is no doubt: what happens next will impact discussions of free speech for many years.  Was Cineworld right? No offence Yes: Millions of people around the world find the scenes depicted in The Lady of Heaven deeply offensive. When protests grew, Cineworld had no choice: they had to protect staff and cinema-goers.  No: In an open society, people must be allowed to push boundaries. If views some find offensive are not heard, they cannot be interrogated. Free speech is a fundamental right.  Or… All societies must draw a line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable to say. This is not easy. It should not be left to cinemas to settle disputes between artists and religious groups.       KeywordsIslamic State - A terrorist organisation that captured whole swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria in 2014, and launched a series of attacks in Europe and North America. It is also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Continue Reading

The Day is an independent, online, subscription-based news publication for schools, focusing on the big global issues beneath the headlines. Our dedicated newsroom writes news, features, polls, quizzes, translations… activities to bring the wider world into the classroom. Through the news we help children and teachers develop the thinking, speaking and writing skills to build a better world. Our stories are a proven cross-curricular resource published at five different reading levels for ages 5 to 19. The Day has a loyal and growing membership in over 70 countries and its effectiveness is supported by case studies and teacher endorsements.

Start your free trial Already have an account? Log in / register