.- A new film about the Crusades distorts history and risks fuelling Islamic fundamentalism, say some British academics. “Kingdom of Heaven,” by Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, stars Orlando Bloom as a young man who joins the Crusades — the centuries-long war in which thousands of Catholic men fought to defend against the Muslim conquests of Christian lands in the Middle East and Northern Africa during the Medieval Period.
The film is expected to hit theatres May 6.
‘Rubbish’ and ‘dangerous to Arab relations’
The film is set at the time of King Baldwin IV (1161-1185), leading up to the Battle of Hattin in 1187, when the Muslim leader Saladin conquered Jerusalem for the Muslims.
However, the filmmaker’s portrayal of events during this time period is less than accurate. Several professors of Church and Medieval history have even described the film as “rubbish”, “ridiculous, “complete fiction” and “dangerous to Arab relations.”
The film introduces the “Brotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians,” which the film says was broken up by the Christian Knights Templar.
“There was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians,” Britain’s leading Crusades historian Jonathan Riley-Smith told the London Telegraph. “That is utter nonsense.”
The film, he said, is “not historically accurate at all.”
The movie refers to “The Talisman”, the 1825 book by Sir Walter Scott, which has been discredited by academics, Riley-Smith told the Telegraph while the film was still in production.
The book is a romanticized version of the Crusades, which falsely depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilized and the Crusaders as barbarians, he said.
U.S. Islamic scholar Robert Spencer also debunked the myth of the “brotherhood” on his Web site. Had the film’s director and others on the film project “bothered to pierce through the deceptive half-truths about Islamic tolerance” they would have discovered that dhimmis (non-Muslims living in Muslim lands) are forbidden, according to Islamic law, to fight alongside Muslims in jihad, he stated.
‘Osama bin Laden’s version of history’
Historian and Crusades author Jonathan Philips agreed about the historical inaccuracies in the film.
Philips told the Telegraph that by portraying the Muslim leader Saladin as a hero, the filmmaker was following in the footsteps of both Saddam Hussein and Hafez Assad, the former Syrian dictator. Both dictators had commissioned huge portraits and statues of Saladin in order to bolster Arab Muslim pride.
“It’s Osama bin Laden’s version of history,” said Philips. “It will fuel Islamic fundamentalists.”
“What may be more unfortunate than the film itself is that untold numbers will believe it,” said Spencer.
Filmmaker, writer ‘try to hit the truth’
In an interview with Time Magazine in the fall, the film’s director said he thinks the controversy is unfounded. He said as a filmmaker, who works in fiction and not in documentary, “I try to hit the truth.”
The screenwriter, former journalist William Monahan, “always tried to read the primary documents. It's tricky, because you weren't there and you're not talking to anyone who was there," said Scott, whose credits include Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.
"We try to show both sides in a very balanced light,” he said. “We employed Muslim actors in three major roles. Ghassan Massoud, who plays Saladin, is a Muslim scholar, and he was very happy with the balance."