The writer and director of a controversial Pakistani film, currently screening at the Venice Film Festival, said he hopes his film will "reform the fundamentalists in Pakistan in particular, and the Muslim world in general."
Shoaib Mansoor’s film, In the Name of God, is a box office hit in Pakistan despite fatwas [scholarly edicts based on Islamic law] and legal threats from Muslim leaders, such as the radical cleric of Islamabad's Red Mosque, Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Ghazi was one of more than 50 people killed in the assault on the mosque in early July.
In another attempt to block the film, a petition was filed at the Lahore High Court in August, but the court eventually ruled against it.
The film is currently playing on 11 screens in 10 cities in Pakistan. It reportedly took $180,000 in its opening weekend last month and grossed $500,000 in its first three weeks.
In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), Mansoor said he was thrilled by the response his three-hour film has received in his home country.
The movie tells the story of two brothers, who are musicians. One of them gives up music and becomes radicalized, grows a beard and tries to get his mother to wear a hijab [headscarf]. The other brother moves to Chicago to study music but ends up getting arrested after 9/11 and is tortured by US interrogators until he is paralyzed. It also addresses other hot topics in Pakistan, such as marital rape, forced marriage and jihad. It includes anti-American sentiments.
The film has caused debate in Pakistan about Islam between the modernized elites, who carry the banner of moderation, and the radical segments of society.
Mansoor said that he believes Pakistan “is heading towards a win of the moderate majority. Up until now, this section was totally docile and quiet. I have tried to be a representative voice.” He said he hopes the film will generate discussion and debate.
The vice president of Italian Muslim group Coreis, Yahya Pallavicini told AKI that attempts by Islamic clerics to use fatwas against films only bolster claims that Islam is incompatible with Western values.
Pallavicini was commenting on the film’s participation in the Venice film festival.
"While maintaining their religious identity, clerics need to integrate in a post-modern, secular society," he was quoted as saying. "While a sense of modesty is legitimate, such disproportionate reactions militate against the possibility of true understanding between peoples and religions.”