//Indian Muslims, Christians Unite Against "Da Vinci"

Indian Muslims, Christians Unite Against "Da Vinci"

Reuters via IslamOnline.net & News Agencies, May 15, 2006

Indian Muslims said on Monday, May 15, that they would take to the streets with their Christian fellows if the authorities did not ban the screening of the controversial film, "The Da Vinci Code."

"The Da Vinci Code is blasphemous as it spreads lies about Jesus Christ," Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, an umbrella organization of Muslim scholars, told Reuters.

"The holy Qur'an recognizes Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims,"Ali Khan added.

Protest in India against the film have so far been low key, but several Catholic groups have threatened to stage street demonstrations and even to shut down cinema halls screening it.

One Catholic organization even called on Christians to begin a fast until death.

"Muslims in India will help their Christian brothers protest this attack on our common religious belief," vowed Ali Khan.

"The Da Vinci code" is an adaptation of author Dan Brown's bestseller by the same name that suggests that Jesus married his female disciple Mary Magdalene and had a child with her.

The 125-million-dollar movie will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday, May 17, before it is seen worldwide on Friday, May 19.

The Vatican condemns the book and the film, and has asked Christians worldwide to boycott "The Da Vinci Code".

"Very Hurt"

Dolphy D'Souza, spokesman of Bombay Catholic Sabha, said Indian Christians are "very hurt" by the planned screening.

"We will picket in front of cinema halls that show the film. We are very hurt and very angry," she said.

Muslim and Christian leaders have already met politicians and police in the western city of Mumbai, urging the authorities to stop the screening of the film.

"If the government doesn't do anything, we will try our own ways of stopping the film from being shown," Syed Noori, president of Mumbai-based Raza Academy, a Muslim cultural organization that often organizes protests on issues concerning Islam, told Reuters.

"We are prepared for violent protests in India if needed."

Last week, small groups of protesters marched in Mumbai and burned a copy of the book.

Christians form about one percent of Hindu-majority India's 1.3-billion population, while Muslims make up around 13 percent.

Muslim scholars and organizations are seeking a United Nations resolutions, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions against blasphemy in the wake of the odious Danish cartoons that lampooned Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

Phenomenon

The explosive religious row over the movie has turned "The Da Vinci Code" into a global phenomenon that promises to make the screen version of the cult novel a major blockbuster.

As Christian churches launch theological attacks on the movie, Dan Brown's best-selling novel is still flying off shelves and generating furious debate across the world as its opponents brand it blasphemous and even "satanic."

"Religion is now and has for centuries been one of the major areas of human interest and inquiry," Robert Thompson, a media professor at the University of Syracuse in New York, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"Popular culture has now identified this subject matter not as something to shy away from, but as something with which it can capture an enormous audience," he said.

While the Catholic Church rarely comments on films and books it finds objectionable, some of its priests and organizations have declared open war on "The Da Vinci Code" amid fears that its plot could damage the Church's image.

The book, which has sold nearly 50 million copies, tells of an alleged conspiracy by the Catholic Church to hide for centuries the fact that Jesus Christ was a prophet, and not a god, who ultimately married Mary Magdalene and had children with her, whose descendants still survive and are venerated and protected as Christ's direct bloodline, according to AFP.

In the movie, Oscar-winning Tom Hanks takes the role of Robert Langdon, a symbologist called in when the curator of the Louvre museum is found murdered, his body splayed out in a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing "The Man of Vitruve."

Langdon, with the help of the curator's cryptologist grand-daughter Sophie Neveu played by French actress Audrey Tautou, are soon caught up in a web of intrigue, racing against time to decode symbols hidden in Da Vinci's work in a trail which takes them from Paris to London and then Scotland.

All the signs point to a centuries-old mystery supposedly covered up by a secretive Vatican-backed organization, which is ready to do anything to stop the world decipher the mystery.

Brown has been at pains to point out that the work is a fiction and merely a spring board for a discussion about Christianity.

Muslims join Da Vinci criticism

Roman Catholics in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) have received Muslim support in protests against the release of the movie, The Da Vinci Code.

Film censors have cleared the movie for release in India on 19 May.

An umbrella organisation of Islamic clerics in Mumbai have labelled the film as "blasphemous" because it spreads "lies" about Jesus Christ.

One Roman Catholic activist has gone on what he says is a "hunger strike until death" unless the film is banned.

'Violent protests'

"The Holy Koran recognises Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims," Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, told the Reuters news agency.

"Muslims in India will help their Christian brothers protest this attack on our common religious belief," he said.

His stance was supported by Syed Noori, president of Mumbai-based Raza Academy, a Muslim cultural organisation that organises protests on issues concerning Islam.

"If the government doesn't do anything, we will try our own ways of stopping the film from being shown," he said. "We are prepared for violent protests in India if needed."

A Roman Catholic activist, Joseph Dias, began a hunger strike on Tuesday which he said would be continued until the film is banned.

Earlier this month hundreds of Catholic demonstrators gathered outside a convent school in Mumbai in protest over the film's release.

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown explores the premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and produced children, whose descendants are alive today.

The Catholic Secular Forum has described the film as "offensive" because hits "certain basic foundations of the religion".

India's Central Board of Film Certification said Tuesday it would give the movie an adult rating if the film-makers agreed to a disclaimer at the start of the movie saying it was a work of fiction.

"There is a visual of self-flagellation and limited amount of nudity in (one) particular scene," board member Vinayak Azad told the AFP news agency. "It has got adult content."

One of the three Catholic representatives of the five-member board, the Rev Myron Pereira, said that it was cleared because the contention that Christ married was "fictional".

"But it does not portray anything in an obscene fashion," he said. "People can protest about anything since we live in a democracy."

It is estimated that there are about 18m Roman Catholics in India, with 500,000 living in Mumbai. The Christian community comprises about 2% of India's population of over one billion.

Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown explores the premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and produced children, whose descendants are alive today.

The Catholic Secular Forum has described the film as "offensive" because hits "certain basic foundations of the religion".

India's Central Board of Film Certification said Tuesday it would give the movie an adult rating if the film-makers agreed to a disclaimer at the start of the movie saying it was a work of fiction.

"There is a visual of self-flagellation and limited amount of nudity in (one) particular scene," board member Vinayak Azad told the AFP news agency. "It has got adult content."

One of the three Catholic representatives of the five-member board, the Rev Myron Pereira, said that it was cleared because the contention that Christ married was "fictional".

"But it does not portray anything in an obscene fashion," he said. "People can protest about anything since we live in a democracy."

It is estimated that there are about 18m Roman Catholics in India, with 500,000 living in Mumbai. The Christian community comprises about 2% of India's population of over one billion.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4985370.stm