UK Theaters Pull a Shiite Film because Sunnis Deem It Heretical

Last week, the British company Cineworld announced that it would cease screening The Lady of Heaven, a movie written by a Kuwaiti Shiite cleric that tells the story of Mohammad’s daughter. The film sparked protests from Sunni Muslims, in whose eyes its plot is heretical. Stephen Daisley examines the implications of such successful sectarian censorship for the UK, and for the West more generally:

The mobs succeeded by deploying this heckler’s veto and appropriating the language of equality and human rights. [The British Muslim website] 5Pillars describes The Lady of Heaven as a “sectarian hate film.” A Bradford imam warned of its “creating hate towards our faith.” Protestors could be seen holding placards that read: “Cineworld promotes hate.” When the frame is religious censorship, liberals instinctively take the side of the artist over the enforcer of orthodoxy, but when the frame is “hate,” liberals go wobbly and wonder if the censors are the victims and the targets of their censorship the real bigots. Islamic reactionaries have become adept at turning our liberalism against us.

Liberals of stauncher stomach will brusquely dismiss the framing of “hate.” This is an assault on free speech and artistic expression, they will say. No one has the right not to be offended. Britain is a liberal country, and Muslims who object to artistic interpretations of Islamic history and teaching will just have to practice tolerance and respect pluralism. If you don’t like a film’s content, don’t go see it.

[But] progressives who are content for trans activists to get . . . speakers and books cancelled can hardly cavil when Sunni Muslims get a Sunni-critical film cancelled. Conservatives aren’t well-placed to dissent either. British mosques are 96-percent Sunni, and the interpretation of Islam contained in The Lady of Heaven is gravely immoral in Sunni orthodoxy. Didn’t the protesters do exactly what the post-liberal right counsels: prize cohesion over autonomy by discouraging vice? After all, what is the Islamic principle of hisbah—“enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong”—but a Quranic spin on common-good conservatism?

Liberalism may fit awkwardly with a multicultural society, but post-liberalism is incompatible. . . . At best, [the combination is] a recipe for resentment and sectarianism and, at worst, for a Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes. Imperfect liberalism stands a better chance of regulating multiculturalism because it has been doing so for some time.

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Read more at The Critic

More about: Censorship, Liberalism, Multiculturalism, Shiites, Sunnis, United Kingdom

The Arab Press Blames Iran Rather Than Israel for Gaza’s Woes

Following the fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad over the weekend, many journalists and commentators in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia didn’t rush to condemn the Jewish state. Instead, as the translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) note, they criticized the terrorist group for “operating in service of Iranian interests and thus inflicting suffering on the Gaza Strip’s residents.” One Saudi intellectual, Turki al-Hamad, wrote the following on Twitter:

It is apparent that, if at one time any confrontation between Israel and the Palestinian organizations would attract world and Arab attention and provoke a wave of anger [against Israel], today it does not shock most Arabs and most of the world’s [countries]. Furthermore, even a sense of human solidarity [with the Palestinians] has become rare and embarrassing, raising the question, “Why [is this happening] and who is to blame?”

I believe that the main reason is the lack of confidence in all the Palestinian leaders. . . . From the Arabs’ and the world’s perspective, it is already clear that these leaders are manipulating the [Palestinian] cause out of self-interest and diplomatic, economic, or even personal motives, and that the Palestinian issue is completely unconnected to this. The Palestinian cause has become a bargaining chip in the hands of these and other organizations and states headed by the [Iranian] ayatollah regime.

A, article in a major Arabic-language newspaper took a similar approach:

In a lengthy front-page report on August 7, the London-based UAE daily Al-Arab criticized Islamic Jihad, writing that “Gaza again became an arena for the settling of accounts between Iran and Israel, while the Palestinian citizens are the ones paying the price.” It added that Iran does not want to confront Israel directly for its bombings in Syria and its attacks on Iranian scientists and nuclear facilities.

“The war in Gaza is not the first, nor will it be the last. But it proves . . . that Iran is exploiting Gaza as it exploits Lebanon, in order to strengthen its hand in negotiations with the West. We all know that Iran hasn’t fired a single bullet at Israel, and it also will not do this to defend Gaza or Lebanon.”

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Read more at MEMRI

More about: Gaza Strip, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israel-Arab relations, Persian Gulf