The Lady Of Heaven: Morocco Bans Film, UK Dismisses Imam As Government Adviser Following Protests

Controversy continues to swirl around The Lady Of Heaven, a film about the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad which last week caused protests in the UK that led to some screenings being pulled. Morocco has now banned the movie while the British government has dismissed imam Qari Asim from his role as an adviser saying he had “encouraged an ongoing campaign to prevent cinemas screening the film” in a “clear effort to restrict artistic expression.” Asim responded that the government’s characterization of his actions is “inaccurate.”

Directed by Eli King, The Lady Of Heaven centers on the story of Arabian holy legend Lady Fatima and her message of peace and non-violence told through two separate timelines hundreds of years apart.

Some groups have criticized it for depicting the Prophet Muhammad, which is taboo in Islam, although the movie’s website notes, “In accordance with Islamic tradition, during the making of this film no individual represented a Holy Personality.”

In Morocco, local media reports that the national Cinema Center said it would not authorize the film to play following condemnation by the country’s religious council. The Supreme Council of Ulema deemed the movie “a blatant falsification of the facts of Islamic history,” that employs “loathsome partiality” and accused the filmmakers of seeking “fame and sensationalism… by hurting the feelings of Muslims and stirring up religious sensitivities.”

Meanwhile, the UK has removed imam Qari Asim from his role as a government adviser saying he has “encouraged an ongoing campaign to prevent cinemas screening the film” in a “clear effort to restrict artistic expression.”

Asim, who was made an MBE in 2012, and was Deputy Chair of the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, was dismissed from his posts in a letter from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities which said, “we have no option but to withdraw the appointment and end your roles with Government with immediate effect.”

The letter continues, “Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression — a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions — means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with Government in roles designed to promote community harmony.”

Asim has responded that he did not attend or organize any protests and called the government’s suggestion he had acted to undermine democratic values “inaccurate.” In a Twitter post, he wrote his concern over the film was that it “risked fueling extremism and tension in communities that would undermine cohesion in British society.”

Asim also wrote that officials had not contacted him before rendering the decision and said there had been “no opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings.”

Last week, exhibitor Cineworld pulled all screenings of the movie in the UK “to ensure the safety” of its staff and customers”following protests at some theaters.

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