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Imam dismissed as advisor on Islamophobia to UK govt for supporting ban of ‘The Lady of Heaven’

In a letter to Imam Qari Asim, the UK government said that his support to a campaign to limit free expression is the reason behind his discontinuation.

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New Delhi: An Imam, Qari Asim, was dismissed Saturday from his role as independent advisor on Islamophobia to the UK government for endorsing the campaign to ban the film titled The Lady of Heaven, which attempts to tell the story of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, reported the BBC.

Qari Asim was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2012 for building “community harmony” in Leeds, the report said.

In a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Asim, Imam of the Makkah Masjid, a mosque in Leeds, was informed that his appointment as deputy chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group had been terminated.

The government said that Asim’s support to a campaign to limit free expression is the reason behind his discontinuation.

Amid widespread protests, Asim had issued a statement calling The Lady of Heaven a “disparaging movie” that has “caused much pain and hurt to Muslims”.

Protests erupted in the UK after the release of the film on 3 June. Earlier this week, several cinemas across the UK cancelled screenings of the film after a petition called for its removal from cinemas. The petition states that the “film has been created to cause heartache for all Muslims as well as spread false information on Islam”.

The letter published on the Government website Saturday read: “We have no option but to withdraw the appointment and end your roles with Government with immediate effect”.

“Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression — a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions — means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with Government in roles designed to promote community harmony.

“You will have no doubt seen reports of the scenes outside different cinema venues. These included deeply disturbing videos of sectarian chanting and anti-Shia hatred…which must be challenged at every opportunity as part of a wider effort to combat anti-Muslim hatred.

“We were disappointed to see that you failed to condemn some of the protests complicit in these behaviours”, it added.

Also read: UK cinema chain cancels screenings of film on Prophet’s daughter amid protests

Why the film is creating controversy

The Lady of Heaven depicts the story of Lady Fatimah, daughter of Prophet Muhammad, and is said to be the first film ever to do so. The Sunni and Shia communities have different views on this story and critics of the film have called it “blasphemous”.

The story is intertwined with the tale of a young Iraqi child in modern times some 1,400 years later.

It was written by Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Yasser al-Habib. The movie portrays Lady Fatimah’s death, describing her as “the first victim of terrorism”.

The controversy surrounding the movie is related to the depiction of Islamic prophets on screen and in art — a subject that has long been contentious.

The filmmakers say they went to great lengths to not show a holy person represented by a human, in accordance with Islamic tradition. Instead, the mixture of CGI, lighting and visual effects was used to generate the performance.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘Racist film, take it down’ — Movie on Prophet’s daughter triggers protests in UK


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