The Malaysian Film Censorship Board announced today that it has banned Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic Noah, bringing to five the number of countries that have forbidden their cinemas to screen the film. It follows an outcry among Muslims who argue that the film contradicts Islamic tradition and breaks the religious law against depicting prophets.
According to Malaysian sources, the ban is partly a public order issue, with authorities concerned that anger at the film could provoke violent behaviour. Feelings are currently running high as a result of unrest between Muslims and Christians in the country's Penang district. But the film has angered some Christians too, and has been described as dangerous by US critics concerned that it will lead children away from the Biblical version of the story. Other Christian groups, however, have noticed a 300% spike in online reading of that story and think that the film could actually increase positive interest in the Bible.
"The film is inspired by the story of Noah," said Paramount Pictures in a statement now added to the film. "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."
Egypt, Bahrain, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates have also banned the film.