Krittivas Mukherjee – Reuters May 15, 2006
A powerful organisation of Indian Islamic clerics promised on Monday to help Christian groups launch protests if the authorities did not ban the screening of the controversial film, "The Da Vinci Code".
Protest in India against the film have so far been low key, but several Catholic groups have threatened to stage street demonstrations and even to shut down cinema halls screening it.
Now, powerful Islamic clerics have joined issue with Christians, saying "The Da Vinci Code" is blasphemous as it spreads lies about Jesus Christ.
"The Holy Koran recognises Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims," Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, an umbrella organisation of clerics, told Reuters.
"Muslims in India will help their Christian brothers protest this attack on our common religious belief."
"The Da Vinci code" is an adaptation of author Dan Brown's bestseller by the same name that suggests that Jesus married his female disciple Mary Magdalene and had a child with her. The film is slated for release worldwide at the end of this week.
The Vatican condemns the book and the film, and has asked Christians worldwide to boycott "The Da Vinci Code".
In India, leaders of the two communities met politicians and police in the western city of Mumbai on Saturday, urging the authorities to stop the screening of the film.
"If the government doesn't do anything, we will try our own ways of stopping the film from being shown," said Syed Noori, president of Mumbai-based Raza Academy, a Muslim cultural organisation that often organises protests on issues concerning Islam. "We are prepared for violent protests in India if needed."
Several Indian Christian groups have said they would protest against the film, with one little known Catholic organisation even calling on Christians to begin a fast until death.
Last week, small groups of protesters marched in Mumbai and burnt a copy of the book.
"We will picket in front of cinema halls that show the film. We are very hurt and very angry," said Dolphy D'Souza, spokesman of Bombay Catholic Sabha, which has 40,000 registered members.
Christians form about one percent of Hindu-majority India's 1.3-billion population, while Muslims make up around 13 percent.
Last updated 17/05/2006