A protest against a film which is said to provoke ‘Shia and Sunni tensions’ has been held in Blackburn.

British made, The Lady of Heaven is directed by Eli King and written by cleric Yasser Al-Habib. Filming began in 2019 and the production was delayed due to the Covid pandemic.

It has now been released nationwide including towns with high Muslim populations such as Blackburn, Bradford and Manchester through mainstream cinema chains such as Vue, Cineworld and Showcase.

Protests had also been planned in other towns and cities where local Muslims are concerned the storyline ‘negatively depicts’ deeply loved Islamic religious figures and goes against well-known historic facts.

About 25 people turned up outside Vue Cinemas in Blackburn last night (Friday June 2) after 6pm to hold a silent protest. None of the group were holding banners but simply wanted to know their feelings known to the cinema chain.

When approached, managers at the cinema would not comment whether the film had been pulled but did say it was no longer listed on their website. They said an official comment would be sent out after the weekend.

There were suggestions that someone had brought 'dozens of tickets' and was distributing them in the car park earlier.

Later, a spokesperson for the group of demonstrators, which was not affiliated to any one group, said the film would not be showing and ‘had been pulled’.

The independent film has already garnered a great deal of controversy in the build up to its release and has been banned in shia majority nation Iran, where it was believed it may cause ‘divisions among Muslims’. Other countries such as Pakistan, which called it ‘sacrilegious’ and Egypt have also followed suit in banning the movie.

Some Shia scholars have also condemned the storyline due to its 'historical inaccuracies'.

Lancashire Telegraph:

The Lady of Heaven was released on June 3 in cinemas in the UK

The plot revolves around Laith, an Iraqi child in the middle of a war-torn country after losing his mother, has found himself a new home with an elderly woman who tells him the story of Fatima, whose face is never shown, the daughter of Muhammad.

The Prophet Muhammad’s face is a mixture of computer generated and lighting imagery. The film said holy personalities were not represented by ‘any one individual’ and were made up of computer-generated images.

Critics say it also looks to liken an ISIS assault on a woman to that of an inaccurate story of how two of the Prophet’s closet companions were responsible for an assault on his daughter Fatima to the fourth caliph Ali, who is revered highly by both Shias and Sunnis.

Other critics have said the depictions of caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, the wife of the Prophet, Aisha and other negative characters were black as this ‘stems from the racial bias against darker skinned people’.

Roshan Muhammed Salih of 5 Pillars has been a vocal critic of the film had watched the movie.

He felt, ‘there is no doubt that Lady of Heaven is going to create sectarian tensions between Sunnis and Shias in the UK’.

He adds: ‘Lady of Heaven is two hours plus of the most extreme Shia sectarian narratives about how the caliphate was supposedly “usurped” from the Ahl ul Bayt. And most Muslims will find the invective against three of the most beloved companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shocking and disgusting.’

He admitted there had been calls from some Shia spokespersons to distance themselves from this movie and also urged ‘all mainstream Sunni scholars to reject this story as a complete lie.’

A New York Times review says the film is hardly about Fatima, whose face is shrouded throughout, whilst The Guardian says 'for a film that aims to promote religious diversity and freedom of thought, its metronomic alternation between time frames, narrative slavishness and laughable coda have a suffocating sense of orthodoxy.'