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‘Noah': Middle East Censors Block Release of Biblical Epic

Several nations ban Paramount’s religious saga because ”it contradicts the teachings of Islam“

Paramount’s big-budget Bible epic “Noah” starring Russell Crowe won’t be seen in the Middle East.

Censors in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have told the studio that they will not allow its release in their countries because “it contradicts the teachings of Islam,” a source with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap Thursday.

Film officials in Egypt, Jordan and Kuwait are expected to ban the film as well.

Egypt’s Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar issued a statement on “Noah” Thursday.

Also read: Darren Aronofsky Knew Nothing About Paramount’s Last-Minute ‘Noah’ Changes (Exclusive)

“Al-Azhar renews its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah’s prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Mohammed]. Therefore, Al-Azhar announces the prohibition of the upcoming film about the Allah’s messenger Noah — peace be upon him.”

This ban does not mean the film will take a major financial hit — The Middle East makes up a very minor portion of the box office returns for most Hollywood movies.

But it’s the latest bump in what’s been a rocky road on the way to ‘Noah’s’ March 28 rollout in the U.S., with debuts in several foreign markets ahead of that.

Also read: Box Office: Can the ‘Son of God’ Flock Be Born Again With ‘Noah’?

Paramount changed the marketing materials for the film last week – without telling director Darren Aronofsky – under pressure from Christian groups, who felt the studio needed to make clear that the film was inspired by the Biblical story, and not a recounting.

Last week, the studio added a disclaimer to the film and all its marketing materials after months of conversations between the studio and religious leaders.

“The film is inspired by the story of Noah,” the statement added to the film at the request of National Religious Broadcasters, reads. “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. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.”