The UK government has relieved an imam from his advisory position at the Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. The sacking, as reported by BBC, came after he allegedly supported banning The Lady of Heaven, a controversial film which tells the story of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter.
The work has the Muslim community riled over its blasphemous contents.
According to the UK government, the 44-year-old Quari Asim, who was deputy chair of its Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, had “encouraged an ongoing campaign to prevent cinemas screening the film” in a “clear effort to restrict artistic expression.”
Asim replied to the allegation, saying that the government’s characterization of his actions is “inaccurate.”
Asim, who in 2012 had been made Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for his efforts in improving community relations, denied he sought any such ban. Instead, he had concerns that the film might be “fuelling extremism and tension in communities that would undermine cohesion in British society.”
Director Eli King’s version (working from Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Yasser al-Habib’s script) of the story of Lady Fatima proved an affront to all branches of Islam for its showing of its prophet Muhammed—though no living actor plays the role of Prophet Muhammad or Lady Fatima (they are computer-generated images). Within the Islamic faith, any depiction of its founder is expressly forbidden. Last week, protests by aggrieved Muslims rocked Cineworld theaters, forcing the exhibitor to pull all UK screenings. A statement read:
Due to recent incidents related to screenings of The Lady Of Heaven, we have made the decision to cancel upcoming screenings of the film nationwide to ensure the safety of our staff and customers.
The film’s executive producer, Malik Shlibak, told the BBC that those protesting were acting like “thugs and bullies,” and that “this is not something that should be tolerated in the UK … This is more than just a single film. Today it’s The Lady Of Heaven, tomorrow it could be something dearer to you.”
Outcry is not limited to the UK alone. On June 12th, the Moroccan Cinema Center announced it will not authorize any screenings of the film within its territory. The decision came after a Saturday condemnation by the country’s religious council, the Supreme Council of Ulema, which deemed the film “a blatant falsification of the facts of Islamic history,” which evinces a “loathsome partiality” and accused the filmmakers of seeking “fame and sensationalism … by hurting the feelings of Muslims and stirring up religious sensitivities.”
Tristan Vanheuckelom writes on film, literature, and comics for various Dutch publications. He is an avid student of history, political theory, and religion, and is a News Writer at The European Conservative.