Totally b(ark)ing

This “Noah” film that’s about to be released has stirred-up quite a bit of controversy lately, but not of the type that you might reasonably expect.

To recap, the whole “Noah’s Ark” story is the Genesis tale of a man (obviously, this is religion after all) who builds a huge ship-like vessel in order to save himself, his family, and a very small sample of the world’s creatures from a great flood. He does this on the advice of God. Oh, and it’s God who causes the flood. So it’s the usual believable Biblical stuff really. God’s upset, God throws a hissy-fit, God wants to kill lots of things in order to show how really ticked-off he is but has the good sense to not want to kill everything on the planet.

Quite why a God who made EVERYTHING in six days would regard creating a few new creatures as an onerous task I have no idea. If I was him and I was in one of my moods, I’d just wipe out the whole stinking mess, animal, mineral or vegetable. But God takes pity on a very small percentage of the Earth’s living creatures. He’s nothing if not fair.

Of course, the fish are relatively relaxed about the whole “flood” thing, being aquatic creatures and all that. Old Noah was apparently spared the task of fitting out his vessel with an aquarium or two. Again, nice of God to think of others at such a trying time.

Anyway, the whole story is held very dear by Christians, Jews and Muslims. It plays a part in all the respective holy books, though of course they don’t agree about the exact details. There are also parts of the Islamic faith that regard depictions of Koranic figures, such as prophets like Noah, as prohibited. The view is that they may encourage idolatry, i.e people may come to worship the image rather than Allah himself. And this is where Russell Crowe comes in.

Mr Crowe, in playing the part of “Noah”, is depicting an Islamic prophet. And it’s just not on, apparently. Governments have banned, or are about to ban, the film from playing inside their territory. Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are amongst those banning the film, and more will follow. (And before Western Christians get too uppity about this, they should not forget the way “Jerry Springer – The Opera” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” were received by many in their camp).

So a film is banned because it goes against what a certain religion apparently stands for (though, as is usual, even within Islam there are various strands of thought that take exception to something, and various strands which do not). There are worse things in life than a film being banned, of course, though many of those “worse things” are especially common in the kind of countries that ban films on religious grounds.

Banning something because it “offends” a religion, or doesn’t proffer the required amount of “respect” to that religion, is utter bullshit. It betrays a kind of weakness inherent to that religion, an admission that the sand upon which that religion is founded is very soft and may give way at any point. What if I worship a teapot as my “God”? May I require that a film is banned because it portrays my “God” as having teabags placed inside him (it’ll probably be a “him”) before he has hot water poured inside him?

Or would people say “You carry on worshipping your teapot mate, but leave the rest of us to watch the film”?



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