The upcoming Bible-based epic "Noah" has been banned by three Arab countries after Islamic critics took aim at the movie for offending religious teachings by depicting a biblical figure on screen.
"Censors for Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) officially confirmed this week that the film will not release in their countries," a representative of the producer, Paramount Pictures, told Reuters on Saturday.
"The official statement they offered in confirming this news is because 'it contradicts the teachings of Islam,'" the representative added, saying that Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait are also expected to ban the $125 million Darren Aronofsky film.
Last week, main Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar in Egypt called for a ban on "Noah," which stars Russell Crowe in the titular role, arguing that it violates Islamic law by personifying biblical figures.
"Al-Azhar renews its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah's prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Muhammad]," Al-Azhar explained in a statement, adding that such productions "provoke people's feelings."
The movie, which is set to premiere on March 28 in the U.S., has also been criticized by some in the evangelical Christian community, but for different reasons.
Creation Museum CEO Ken Ham and evangelical filmmakers like Ray Comfort have insisted that Aronofsky's "Noah" strays from a literal interpretation of the story in Genesis. They were particularly unhappy with the movie's portrayal of evolution and environmental issues. Comfort is set to release his own version of the biblical account, titled "Noah and the Last Days," on DVD and Youtube on the same day as the Hollywood premiere.
Paramount Pictures has stated in official disclaimers that the movie's plot does use creative interpretations of Noah's story but still aims to portray the main themes and values inspired by the Bible.
"While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide," the studio has said in a statement, backed by Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of The National Religious Broadcasters.
"People may assume that this film is a straightforward retelling of the biblical Noah narrative – the movie trailer might lead them to believe that as well," Johnson told The Christian Post last week. "It is not. It is instead a dramatic story based upon Noah that contains a lot of extra-biblical material."