- Deseret News - Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It appears Egyptian leaders prefer to leave Exodus retellings to religious professionals.

Egypt has banned “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” the latest biblical epic to hit theaters worldwide. Government officials from the country’s Ministry of Culture determined the film was tainted by historical mistakes.

All told, said Culture Minister Gaber Asfour to Agence France-Presse, “It is a Zionist film,” one that revises events to glorify the Jewish people. Mr. Asfour was particularly concerned by the film’s claim that the Jews built the pyramids.

Deadline Hollywood noted that the culture minister’s comments about the film were surprising, given his initial efforts to ensure its release in spite of religious objections.

However, Mr. Asfour had to support the decision of a committee appointed to determine the film’s fate. The committee was comprised of the head of the supreme council for culture, the head of the censorship committee and two history professors, AFP reported.

In a column for Religion News Service, Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, drew on earlier interviews with committee members to write that Egypt’s concerns with “Exodus” likely went beyond historical inaccuracy.

He highlighted director Ridley Scott’s decision to represent the parting of the Red Sea as a tidal phenomenon and God (or God’s messenger) as a young child, explaining that, in Egyptian culture, those choices were likely seen as blasphemous and offensive rather than creative.

“Exodus” is not the first 2014 film to be kept out of Egyptian theaters.

“In March, Al-Azhar, Egypt’s top Islamic body, banned the screening of ‘Noah,’ another Hollywood biblical epic starring Russell Crowe, saying it violated Islam by portraying a prophet,” AFP reported. The country also censored “The Da Vinci Code” after leaders in the Orthodox Coptic Church complained.

Egypt isn’t alone in its discomfort with “Exodus.” Morocco has also banned the film, citing its problematic representation of God, The Guardian reported. The article noted that the movie was approved by the state-run Moroccan Cinema Centre, but showings were halted at the order of other government officials.

As of Dec. 28, “Exodus” had grossed nearly $149 million worldwide, Box Office Mojo reported.

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