The Lady of Heaven, directed by Eli King, has sparked protests all around the United Kingdom after it hit the big screens last week.
The 2-hour-long film, written by Sheikh Al-Habib, tells the story of a young, Iraqi orphan who learns crucial life lessons about power and patience after discovering the historical story of Fatimah bint Muhammad (RA) (referred to as Lady Fatimah) and her suffering. However, The Lady of Heaven has been accused of not only depicting Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but also promoting further tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims, an ongoing and highly sensitive issue that divides the community. So it’s no wonder that just days before it was supposed to be released in cinemas all around the UK, petitions asking for its removal started cropping up and thousands of Muslims have rallied around to support the cause.
“This film has been created to cause heartache for all Muslims as well as spread false information on Islam,” the description of a petition started by Muslims UK read. “The film directly disrespects Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) who is depicted by an actor, deeply shocking and disrespectful to the best of creation. It is also a deeply racist film with all the main negative characters being portrayed by black actors. Furthermore it also portrays the companions of our Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) in a bad manner.”
It continued: “We demand the cinemas to remove this film from their screens and understand that airing it will cause protests throughout the country and will not be accepted by Muslims.”
“This is totally offensive and is a deliberate plot to cause pain to billions of Muslims around the world. We love and honour our Prophet peace be upon him and would defend him with our lives. This film is made by those hateful people who neither love him or respect him, therefore, portraying him in a false and insulting manner,” wrote one supporter.
“This will and is causing great heartache my pride and joy as a Muslim cannot stand the disrespect of our last messenger, he is our honour and the our pride,” added another.
The movie used computer-generated faces to depict the Prophet (PBUH), something that is widely condemned within the faith, though some Shia Muslims are slightly more lenient on the issue. Also, it was said that the storyline focus shifting towards Sunni and Shia tensions may add to unnecessary tensions amongst different groups within the community.
Despite the outcry, on June 3rd, the film still made its debut in theatres.
Vue, Cineworld and Showcase all hosted the controversial drama in a range of cities nationwide including London, Birmingham, Bradford and Leeds. But of course, the Muslim community wasn’t going to give up that easily – the passion and respect that they have for Islam prompted them to hold peaceful protests outside establishments screening the movie.
Up and down the country, groups of Muslims flocked to their nearest cinema spot and held protests to urge companies to remove the film from their line up. In Bolton, outside Cineworld, Nasheed reciter and founder of Ahmadullah Studios gave a speech urging everyone to boycott the film. And in Bradford, a similar event took place which prompted the company to finally step up and take action.
In an email statement by Cineworld, they announced that they will be removing all screenings of The Lady of Heaven permanently.
“Due to the recent incidents regarding 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. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused.”
Vue and Showcase have yet to take action or speak out about the issue.
Globally, the independent film has been banned in Iran, where it was believed that it could cause “divisions among Muslims”, as well as Egypt. Pakistan also slammed it as “sacrilegious.”
If you want to support the cause, you can sign the petition by clicking here.