India: Religious group issues fatwa against composer and director

16 September 2015


A Muslim group in India has issued a fatwa against the Indian musician and composer A.R. Rahman and the Iranian film director Majid Majidi.

A Sunni-Muslim group in Mumbai called the Raza Academy has issued the fatwa in protest against Majidi’s film ‘Muhammad: Messenger of God’ – Iran’s most expensive ever movie with a $40 million budget – which A.R. Rahman wrote the music score for.

Amid the international controversy over visual portrayals of the prophet, this is a film about the Prophet Muhammad’s childhood. The Raza Academy says that the film should not use the word Mohammad as its title, as criticism of the film could be misinterpreted as criticising the Prophet Mohammad. And it says that Muslims are not allowed to depict God in images. The Raza Academy calls to the Indian government to ban the film, preventing it from being released in India.

“My decision to compose the music for this film was made in good faith and with no intention of causing offense,” A. R. Rahman wrote in a Facebook post, responding to the criticism against him for composing music for the film.

The film magazine Variety explained that though the word ‘fatwa’ is often conflated with a death threat. “A fatwa is an Islamic legal opinion, the weight of which depends on the authority of the person issuing it,” Variety noted. Novelist and filmmaker Salman Rushdie lived in hiding for several years after receiving a fatwa that explicitly called for his death from Iran’s powerful Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 for Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’.

A. R. Rahman has won Oscars for his music for ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and has some 200 film scores in India, Hollywood and elsewhere to his credit. He has been a long-standing admirer of Iranian cinema. Rahman told Variety that the subject matter of the film is close to his heart as he converted to Islam prior to the release of his first film ‘Roja’.

» BBC News – 15 September 2015:
India’s AR Rahman responds to ‘fatwa’ on Muhammad film

» Variety – 12 September 2015:
Fatwa Issued Against India’s Double Oscar-Winner A.R. Rahman

» Hindustan Times | AFP Tehran – 29 August 2015:
Iran premieres top-budget epic film ‘Muhammad’, wins praise worldwide

» BBC – 4 February 2015:
Screening of Iran’s Muhammad biopic delayed

A. R. Rahman’s Facebook post

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