CAIRO - Citing social harmony reasons, the local government in the southern Indian Tamil Nadu state has banned the release of a new film Vishwaroopam' for two weeks, following protests form Muslim groups denouncing the film as insulting Muslims and Qur'an.
The chief minister was concerned the film could aggravate the law and order situation in the state and sought views of senior officials," a senior government official told Times of India on Thursday, January 24.
It was then decided that the film would be banned for two weeks.
The government on Wednesday instructed all district collectors to prevent the film's screening for two weeks, citing a possible law and order situation in the run-up to Prophet Muhammad's (peace be upon him) Birthday.
Sources said the government directive was faxed to all the district collectors, who in turn ordered theatre owners not to screen the film.
The decision followed rising opposition by various Muslim organizations against the upcoming high-budget production Vishwaroopam', which was scheduled for release on January 25.
They accused the film-makers of intending to insult the holy book of Qur'an and Islam, adding that no one could have taken such a film in the history of Indian cinema.
Moreover, the Muslim organizations cited worries that actor-producer Kamal Haasan's film would damage the social fabric of Tamil Nadu, a state where Hindus and Muslims are living peacefully as brothers.
Solidifying their opposition, representatives of 24 Muslim organizations and political parties met home secretary R Rajagopal at the secretariat on Wednesday under the banner of 'Federation of Muslim Organizations'.
"The film is aimed at tarnishing Islam and Muslims. Its release is bound to disturb communal harmony," Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam leader and MLA M H Jawahirullah said.
Muslims account for 160 million of India's 1.1 billion people, the world's third-largest Muslim population after those of Indonesia and Pakistan.
Challenging the orders of the Tamil Nadu government, the film-maker decided to seek legal recourse to get his film Vishwaroopam released on January 25 as scheduled.
"Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose," Haasan, who is in the US for preparations for the film's overseas release on Friday, said in a brief statement.
"Now I will rely on law and logic to come to our support. This kind of cultural terrorism will have to stop."
He defended his new movie, denying accusations of drawing the Muslim community in a low light.
"I am not only hurt by these accusations of denigrating a community but my sensibilities are truly insulted," he said.
He added that he has always worked for planting harmony between Muslims and Hindus in the volatile country.
"My statements in favor of the Muslim community have marked me as a sympathizer, Haasan said in his statement.
I have always gone beyond the call of my duty as an actor to voice my opinion in favor of what was humane and civil.
I have been part of an organization called Harmony India which worked for Hindu Muslim amity.