Da Vinci Code outcry grows

The Indian government has put a temporary hold on the release of The Da Vinci Code, as opposition to the film grows across Asia and the rest of the world.

    The movie is soon to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival

    The movie, based on the best-selling novel by Dan Brown, is to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday.

    Like the novel on which it is based, the movie's plot centres on the contention that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, with whom he bore children - a premise that has led senior Vatican officials to call the story offensive and urge a boycott.

    The outcry from religious opponents around the world has led to calls for the film to be cut, restricted or banned entirely.

    Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi, India's information and broadcasting minister, said he had received more than 200 complaints about the film and had asked for a special screening of the movie before allowing it to be released.

    "We are a secular country. On any sensitive issue, we should take action after we examine every aspect," Dasmunshi told reporters.

    "We have to be careful."

    India has 18 million Roman Catholics - a small sliver of its 1 billion people, most of whom are Hindu.

    The country's national censor board has cleared the movie,

    but said it must address concerns raised by some groups before the film is screened at cinemas.

    The film is based on the best-
    selling novel by Dan Brown 

    The Reverend Myron Pereira, a member of India's Central Board of Film Certification panel, said there was no reason to reject the movie because it did

    not portray anything "in an obscene fashion".

    "People can protest about anything since we live in a democracy," he said

    Pereira said the censors ordered that the movie's disclaimer - which notes it is a work of fiction and not intended to harm the feelings of any community - be moved to the beginning for the Indian release.

    Ending cut

    In Thailand meanwhile censors have said they are considering a request from a coalition of Christian groups to cut the film's final 15 minutes.

    Senior Vatican officials have
    called for a boycott of the film

    "We asked that they cut out the conclusion of the movie that Jesus still has heirs alive today," said a spokesman for the groups, Manoch Jangmook of the Evangelical Fellowship of Thailand.

    Manoch said church leaders worried the film could "cause misunderstanding among Thai people who don't know about Christianity."

    The censorship board has not yet replied to the request.

    'All fiction'

    Elsewhere in Asia a South Korean court on Tuesday rejected a request from a Christian group for an injunction blocking the screening of the movie, saying the group's reasons lacked merit.

    "As it is clear that the novel and movie are all fiction ... there is no probability that the movie can make viewers mistakenly believe the contents of the movie are facts," chief judge Song Jin-hyun of the Seoul Central District Court said.

    The Christian Council of Korea, an umbrella group of 63 South Korean Protestant denominations, said it respected the court's ruling but would lead a boycott of the movie.

    In Singapore meanwhile the city-state's censorship board has cleared the movie despite a national church group's request for it to be banned, but gave the movie a NC16 rating - meaning those under 16 are not permitted to see it.

    It said only mature audiences would "be able to discern and differentiate between fact and fiction."

    The Philippines is a predominantly
    Roman Catholic nation

    The decision was mirrored in the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, where censors have given the movie an adult rating.

    The archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, has denounced both the film and the novel as an attack on the divinity of Jesus Christ, but stopped short of calling for a ban.

    Defending the decision to approve the film, the head of the Philippines' Movie and Television Review and Classification Board said the movie would be a "test of faith" for many people.

    "But it has to be shown," Marissa Laguardia said.

    "Otherwise we will be the only country that will not show this film. Thirty-six countries have already reviewed this film and they have not banned it. So are we just out of the Stone Age?"

    Muslim response

    It is not only Christian groups that have protested against the release of The Da Vinci Code.

    In Azerbaijan, Muslim leaders have called for protests against the film, saying it was an insult to all believers.

    "Lack of respect for the feelings of believers, whether they are Muslims, Christians or representatives of other world religions, is inadmissable"

    Gadzhiaga Nuriyev,
    head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan

    Gadzhiaga Nuriyev, head of the Islamic Party of Azerbaijan, told AFP, said: "Lack of respect for the feelings of believers, whether they are Muslims, Christians or representatives of other world religions, is inadmissable."

    His comments were echoed by Rafik Aliyev, head of the Azerbaijan's state commission on religious education, who said: "This film should be received negatively by society because the point of view of its authors, that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene had a child, is not credible."

    Meanwhile, a priest from the conservative Catholic movement Opus Dei faulted the Roman Catholic Church on Tuesday for failing to do enough to counter the "fiction" sown by book and the subsequent film.

    Rev John Wauck, a professor of literature at Opus Dei's Holy Cross University in Rome, urged Catholic leaders to take the opportunity of the success of Dan Brown's best-selling novel to educate the faithful about Christianity.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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