British cinemas cave to Islamic Fundamentalist Protests of “The Lady of Heaven”

No! NOBODY saw this coming!

The faith-based biographical drama “The Lady of Heaven” has faced sanction and banning, even having its trailers banned, in pretty much the entire Islamic world. Now Muslim protesters, calling it “blasphemous,” have gotten it yanked from cinemas in Great Britain.

This is, of course, a shameful and cowardly act, but quite understandable given the history of Islamic fundamentalist violence against the Free Speech West. Charlie Hebdo, anyone?

Right wing anti-Islamic columnists and newspapers are having a field day over this. British news and websites refer to “Lady” as being “Banned.” No. Cinemas have merely decided it’s not worth the hassle and security issues to show the movie. “Banned” is what happened in the Islamic theocracies of Asia and the Middle East.

It’s even given the much-maligned Catholic Church the license to “Tut tut” the newer Middle Eastern-founded religion, with one British Archbishop declaring it to be Islam’s “Life of Brian” moment.

Yes, Catholic panties were all in a twist over Monty Python’s “Not the Life Story of Jesus” comedy. The Cambridge comics spent a lot of time on the telly (shoving aside the penguin on the telly) defending their movie from the humorless and the “How DARE you!” crowd in the late 70s.

But their movie wasn’t banned. Islam is the world’s only religion that not only hates criticism or careful documentation of the life stories of The Prophet and those surrounding him. They condemn it, sanction it and even draw blood over it.

Sorry, that’s not how things work here in the West, folks.

As somebody who had to cross a picket line to see Martin Scorsese’s controversial film of “The Last Temptation of Christ,” which was sort of America’s Christian “Life of Brian” moment, close examination for religious claims, fact-based debate and criticism are considered fair game.

Many in the West have an eyerolling view of Islam over its intolerance of such questioning. What are these protestors afraid of? Why were those who codified “Thou shalt not depict/question The Prophet” into the Koran or its interpretation hellbent on doing that? What were THEY afraid of?

“The Lady of Heaven,” which I reviewed some while back, takes pains to get around the many restrictions on how Muhammed, his family and the conquest-oriented origins of his faith are depicted. It still manages to lay some blunt facts out there for the faithful to mull over.

How DID Islam turn into what is widely perceived as a violent global patriarchal cult, all but enslaving women in places where its most extreme practitioners hold sway? A movie that suggests the faith has been twisted in some ways, and was grimly-flawed in others by its founders, was sure to stir up debate.

DEBATE is what’s called for, here. And by the way, if you haven’t seen the movie, put down your placard and go home. You’re “condemning” something you have no real knowledge of. If you can’t LET yourself see the movie, ask yourself why that is?

And if you didn’t want to live in a society that values free speech and open debate, why did you emigrate to one?

If the Catholic and Protestant, Jewish and every other religion can grit its teeth and take it, Islamists have to see how insecure and inferior their faith comes off, with adherents losing their collective minds over a movie or ANYthing that suggests that maybe the flawed founder of that faith was human, wasn’t perfect, and that those jockeying for power after his death had venal self-serving intentions.

I can’t recall which publicity house pitched me the movie some while back, but like the filmmakers, I had to bend over backwards to footnote the damned review because while every religion can and should be critiqued, I’m still just reviewing a movie that does that. My main concerns are the quality of the production and the performances and the veracity of its “true story” script.

That Muslim fundamentalists won’t even allow people to see it without threats and protests damns them in the eyes of the world. They come off as childish, intolerant and violent fanatics,

The producers of the film should stream it, let anybody who wants to see it find it online that way. Now that it’s got controversy surrounding it, they should make their investment back. Let the outspoken and superstitious avoid it, if they must. There’s no way to put the Internet genie back in the bottle. Not here in the West, anyway.

If this is a “Life of Brian” moment, the world is watching to see if you actually start the process that “The Lady of Heaven,” a middling, overly-careful hot-button biopic, advocates. What we’re waiting to see is if you finally grow up.

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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