September 24, 2016
A controversy has erupted on Tunisian social media over rumors that an Iranian film depicting the life of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad will soon be shown in cinemas in the capital of Tunis.
“Muhammad: Prophet of God” has yet to be officially screened in Tunisia, but activists warn that if the film receives official permission from the government to be screened as a foreign film it could threaten the religious unity of the nation and incite tensions.
The fear originates from an article published by Tunisian website “Inbaa’ Tunis”. On September 13th, they claimed that a special showing would take place in the capital Tunis in the presence of the producer, screenwriter, and a number of the film’s actors.
Four days later, spokeswoman from the Ministry of Culture Muniya bin Halima denied the claims, adding that no such plans to screen “Muhammad” exist.
Naturally, not everyone was pleased with the news. Tunisian newspaper Ad-Diyyar reports that a number of activists reported that the film encourages sectarian tensions along Sunni and Shia lines, and that showing the film in the country could lead to dangerous repercussions.
When the film was released last year, the religious leadership of Saudi Arabia condemned it for distorting the biography of the prophet, twisting Islam, and being a vessel for Iranian political thoughts. Of its most egregious breaches of Sunni Orthodoxy is the film’s showing of the Prophet Muhammad’s image. Though obscuring his face, a poster for the film features Muhammad’s body as a child. It was banned in a number of Islamic countries.
The film’s $40 million budget makes it the most expensive and largest film in Iranian history, and it has been widely praised for its cinematography.