UAE bans Exodus: Gods and Kings

DUBAI: The UAE said Tuesday that it will not allow screening of Hollywood’s Biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” echoing similar bans by Egypt and Morocco.

Directed by award-winning writer-director Ridley Scott, the film relates how Moses helped Israelite slaves flee the persecution of Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramses by parting the Red Sea to let them cross safely.

But it contains “religious and historical mistakes,” according to the National Media Council, charged with vetting films for release in the UAE.

“The film shows Moses not as a prophet but as just a preacher of peace,” the council’s director of media content tracking Juma Obaid al-Leem said, adding that the storyline contradicts the holy books.

In addition to his place in the Christian and Jewish faiths, Moses is also revered by Muslims as a prophet, not unlike Mohammad.

Leem said the film had also fallen afoul of the council for its depiction of Moses receiving the revelation from God through a child.

Representation of God and prophets is taboo in Islam.

Egypt’s Culture Minister Gaber Asfour said Friday that Scott’s film was rife with mistakes, including an apparent claim that “Moses and the Jews built the pyramids,” which, Asfour said, “totally contradicts proven historical facts.”

“It is a Zionist film,” the minister added. “It gives a Zionist view of history and contains historical inaccuracies and that’s why we have decided to ban it.”

Mohammed Afifi, the head of Egypt’s censorship committee, said he took issue with the scene showing the parting of the Red Sea in which Moses – a prophet revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike – is seen holding a “sword” like a warrior, instead of a “stick.”

Morocco also banned the film, despite approval by the state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre, media reported last Thursday, quoting theatre managers.

Mounia Layadi Benkirane, the film’s distributor in Morocco, said she received written notice that Scott’s blockbuster contained a scene that represents God in the form of a “child who gives a revelation to the prophet Moses.”

The Muslim UAE is a state where foreigners, including millions of non-Muslims, make up the majority of the population.

“We do not allow the distortion of religions,” Leem said.

“When it comes to religious and historical movies, we care about having a correct narrative and avoiding hurting the feelings of others,” he added.

He insisted that film censorship in the state is not tough, stressing that most movies receive approval for release.

“It is normal if we express reservations about one movie out of 1,000,” he added.

The 3-D “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” starring Christian Bale as Moses, earned $24.1 million in its debut weekend in the United States, according to box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.