A top Islamic institute in Egypt has called for a ban on Darren Aronofsky's upcoming "Noah" movie, arguing that the Hollywood film provokes people and violates Islamic law.
Al-Azhar, a main Sunni Muslim institute, said in statement on Thursday that movies like "Noah" are "contrary to faith and to the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharia [law]," and announced that it is prohibiting the screening of films that personify biblical figures, Al Arabiya News reported.
"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]," the institute said, adding that such productions "provoke people's feelings."
The "personal characterization" of Noah is "prohibited in Islamic Shariah … and constitutes a clear violation of the principles of Islamic law stipulated by the Constitution," Al-Azhar maintained.
Sheikh Sameh Abdel Hameed, a member of the Salafi Call, argued Wednesday that "depicting prophets in art is a crime; not art," as reported by Al Arabiya.
Salafi Call leader Abdel Hameed remarked, "Depicting prophets opens the door for questioning their behavior … Actors cannot accurately imitate the behaviors, manners and appearances of prophets."
Aronofsky's movie, which is slated for release on March 28 and stars A-list actors such as Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Anthony Hopkins, has also been criticized by some in the evangelical Christian community in the U.S. for taking creative liberties with the story of Noah, which is found in the book of Genesis in the Bible.
Evangelical filmmakers like Ray Comfort have insisted that the movie cannot be called a "biblical adventure," and announced that his own version of the story will be released on the same day on DVD and Youtube, called "Noah and the Last Days."
Paramount Pictures recently released disclaimers, stating that the movie 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," reads the 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."
Other Christians such as Phil Cooke have backed the movie, however, recommending Christians give it a chance and watch it first before making up their opinions.
"I've talked to the chairman of the Studio, as well as the producer, director, set designer, and even the star – Russell Crowe. Not once did I ever get the feeling they were anything but serious," Cooke revealed.
"They didn't mock the story, went to great lengths to get the ark built to exact biblical measurements, and did an amazing amount of research. In fact, writer Ari Handel and director Darren Aronofsky have been working on this script for 16 years."