The Lady of Heaven: Row over film's depiction of Prophet Muhammed escalates

Credit: The Lady of Heaven/5 Pillars

The row over a film branded "blasphemous" by protesters has escalated as more cinema chains appear to have cancelled showings of The Lady of Heaven.

Showcase cinemas in Coventry, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, among other locations, had been tiled to show the film - but the title is now no longer showing on the chain's website as available to book. Showcase has been approached for comment to confirm its stance.

Meanwhile Vue has stuck by its decision to continue showing the film "in a number of cinemas" citing its accreditation by the British Board of Film Classification.

Cineworld said on Tuesday it was cancelling all screenings of The Lady of Heaven following demonstrations outside the chain's venues in Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford and Sheffield.

Why is there anger about the film?

The Lady of Heaven, described by creators as a story separated by 1,400 years, has angered some Muslims for its depiction of Islam's prophet.

Critics argue the film inaccurately depicts early Islamic history. In Islam it is considered an insult to try and depict the Prophet Muhammed.

More than 125,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of the film from all UK cinemas.

The poster for Lady of Heaven.

What has the reaction been?

There were further protests outside Vue cinema in Stratford Westfield in London on Wednesday night.

Footage from outside the venue shows a large crowd gathered, chanting, before entering the movie theatre.

Inside, the group held placards and continued to chant through a megaphone.

The film's executive producer, Malik Shlibak, responded to the protests on Twitter writing: "An attack on The Lady Of Heaven is an attack on deep-rooted British culture and values".

He added: "I'm all for freedom of expression from both/all sides. Censorship, especially from radicals, has no place in this country."

The Muslim Council of Britain released a statement describing the film as "divisive" and called for "respectful dialogue of intra-faith relations".

What have the cinema chains said?

Announcing the scrapping of showings at their chain, Cineworld said: "Due to recent incidents related to 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".

"Vue takes seriously the responsibilities that come with providing a platform for a wide variety of content and believes in showcasing films of interest to diverse communities across the UK.

"Vue will only show a film once the BBFC (the independent British Board of Film Classification) has assessed and rated a film. The Lady of Heaven has been BBFC accredited and is on show in a number of our cinemas. 

"Decisions about how long a film remains on show are taken on a site-by-site basis and based on a variety of commercial and operational factors."

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