Middle East ban for Hollywood's Noah epic

Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe in a scene from Noah Russell Crowe plays Biblical figure Noah alongside Jennifer Connelly

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The UAE, Qatar and Bahrain are among Middle Eastern countries banning Hollywood epic Noah as it breaks Islam's taboo of depicting a prophet.

"There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it," Juma Al-Leem from UAE's National Media Centre said.

Director Darren Aronofsky's film stars Russell Crowe as the ark-building Biblical figure.

Paramount Pictures recently admitted the movie takes "artistic licence".

"It is important to respect these religions and not show the film," Mr Al-Leem told the Associated Press.

A separate statement from Al-Azhar in Egypt, one of Islam's most revered religious institutions, said it objects to the film because it violates Islamic law and could "provoke the feelings of believers."

The ark in Noah The film features Noah building an ark to protect animals from a devastating flood

The film, which is thought to have cost more than its $125m (£78m) to make, received negative reactions following test screenings across the US.

The movie also prompted controversy among conservative Christians, leading Paramount to add a disclaimer to marketing material that artistic licence had been taken with the retelling of the story.

There are differences between Biblical and Qu'ranic interpretation of Noah, referred to in Arabic as Nuh, but both mention the flood and his vessel saving a pair of each animal species.

Many children's films and cartoons have told the story in Islam without showing his face.

Other Muslim countries have said it is unlikely censors will approve the Hollywood blockbuster.

Mohammad Zareef from Pakistan's Central Board of Film Censors said they tended to steer clear of films with a religious theme, adding: "We haven't seen it yet, but I don't think it can go to cinemas in Pakistan."

Darren Aronofsky Black Swan's Darren Aronofsky is in the director's chair for Noah

In Tunisia, Culture Ministry spokesman Faisal Rokh said there had not been any requests from local distributors to show the movie, but they did not usually screen films featuring a prophet.

There were riots and demonstrations in the country in October 2011, after a private television station screened the animated film Persepolis, which includes a portrayal of God.

The head of the TV station was later fined 1,200 euros after being convicted of an "attack on the sacred".

Saudi Arabia and the Gaza Strip do not have any cinemas, but one theatre manager in the West Bank said it has ordered Noah.

"The fact that some countries in the region prohibit it makes it the more fun to watch," said Clack Cinema manager Quds Manasra.

She added: "The production is magnificent, the story is beautiful."

Hollywood's depiction of religion have provoked controversy before, including Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ, which shows the crucifixion of Jesus.

It was screened across much of the region, but it was not shown in most cinemas in Israel and parts of the Gulf.

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