Kuwait/Lebanon/UAE: Countries ban Egyptian film over religious concerns

13 March 2017
Egyptian film ‘Mawlana’ (Preacher) banned in Kuwait, UAE & Lebanon over backlash from religious clerics amid fears it could “incite sectarian strife”.
Photo: Section of ‘Mawlana’ poster/’Mawlana’ Facebook


Egyptian film ‘Mawlana’ (Preacher) has been banned in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Lebanon over backlash from religious clerics amid fears it could “incite sectarian strife”, reported Arab Times Online, An-Nahar and Al Bawaba in February 2017.

Lebanese censors objected to 12 minutes of the film, saying it “could incite sectarian strife and provoke conflict between different religions” and requested the 12 minutes to be removed, reported Al Bawaba on 9 February 2017.

The Lebanon-based Sabah Distribution Company and the film’s director, Egyptian Magdy Ahmed Ali, took a stand against Lebanese censors asking them to reconsider and “to either accept the film as it is or reject it entirely”. They did not reconsider and so “despite major financial losses” decided to not distribute the film in the country.

Hisham al-Ghanim, chairman and CEO of International Film Distribution Co., said the film was banned in Kuwait and the UAE due to “censorship reasons”, reported Arab Times Online on 2 February 2017.

Objections from religious leaders
The film, adapted from a novel written by Al-Tahrir newspaper editor-in-chief Ibrahim Eissa, revolves around a young cleric from Cairo’s Al-Azhar Univesity, renowned as Sunni Islam’s most prestigious university, who becomes a popular TV preacher and quickly gets caught up in having ties with security forces, politicians and businessmen. The film criticises the misuse of religion in politics, among other over-arching themes.

Clerics at Al-Azhar have objected to the popular film, which they say tarnishes the image of Islam and characterises clerics as easily controllable by the state., reported Reuters on 23 January 2017.

“The film came out a bad time. This is a time when people are asking to renew religious discourse and improve Azhar’s image,” Sameh Mohamed, a preacher at Al-Azhar, told Reuters. “The film coming out now is very wrong. Even its title is problematic.”

Meanwhile, the film’s director deems it the “perfect time for the film” as “extremism is on the rise, and people are calling for a renewal of religious discourse”.

The film has been a box office hit in Egypt.

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