6 April, 2004

Malaysian Muslims offended by “The Passion”

Archbishop asks for a revision of the ban

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Ucan) – “The Passion of the Christ” has been barred from cinemas and churches due to “religious sensitivities”. The Malaysian Film Censorship Board has restricted the film in the primarily Muslim country.
Chow Will Pin, managing director of 20th Century Fox, said that the film was censored without being viewed by the authorities, saying he knew “whether we submitted the print (of the film) or not, the guidelines remained.”
The censorship code in the country bans depictions of prophets in films. Husnita Ismail, an avid movie-goer, explained, saying, “To us Muslims, Jesus is a prophet. While the Christians believe that he was crucified, we believe that God saved him from crucifixion and death. So this movie offends us.” A spokesman for a leading cinema chain, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that the same rule barring “The Passion” prevented the animated film “Prince of Egypt” to be screened. That film was about Moses, known as Prophet Musa to Muslims.
Though it has been turned down from cinemas, pirated DVD’s and video CDs of the movie are turning up on the street, selling for as little as 8 ringgit (US 2.10 dollars) on the black market.
Aloysious Pinto, the vice president of the Christian Renewal Society in Malaysia has voiced his disagreement with the censorship board’s reported stand. “This is a Christian film. It helps people grow in their faith. It should not be viewed as entertainment, but more as faith education.” He further stated that since the film has been banned, many are buying pirated copies, “which is against our teaching.”
The Secretary general of National Evangelical Christian Fellowship Malaysia, Reverend Wong Kim, agreed, saying that a movie should not be banned unless it portrays a deplorable or inaccurate picture of a prophet, and that the government, “should consider the sentiments and feelings of a particular religious community” that is closely tied with the film, in this case, Christians. The Catholic Archbishop Murphy Pakiam of Kuala Lumpur, shared his view, and expressed the desire for a reversal of the decision to ban the film which has sparked religious renewal all over the world. “We agree with Reverend Wong on the need for tolerance, and we request that the authorities reconsider their decision and allow the screening of the film.”

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