.- A new film about the Crusades distorts history and risks fuelling Islamic fundamentalism, say some British academics. âKingdom of Heaven,â by Oscar-nominated director Ridley Scott, stars Orlando Bloom as a young man who joins the Crusades â 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.
âRubbishâ and âdangerous to Arab relationsâ
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 filmmakerâs portrayal of events during this time period is less than accurate. Several professors of Church and Medieval history have even described the film as ârubbishâ, âridiculous, âcomplete fictionâ and âdangerous to Arab relations.â
The film introduces the âBrotherhood of Muslims, Jews and Christians,â which the film says was broken up by the Christian Knights Templar.
âThere was never a confraternity of Muslims, Jews and Christians,â Britainâs leading Crusades historian Jonathan Riley-Smith told the London Telegraph. âThat is utter nonsense.â
The film, he said, is ânot historically accurate at all.â
The movie refers to âThe Talismanâ, 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 âbrotherhoodâ on his Web site. Had the filmâs director and others on the film project âbothered to pierce through the deceptive half-truths about Islamic toleranceâ 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.
âOsama bin Ladenâs version of historyâ
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.
âItâs Osama bin Ladenâs version of history,â said Philips. âIt will fuel Islamic fundamentalists.â
âWhat may be more unfortunate than the film itself is that untold numbers will believe it,â said Spencer.
Filmmaker, writer âtry to hit the truthâ
In an interview with Time Magazine in the fall, the filmâs director said he thinks the controversy is unfounded. He said as a filmmaker, who works in fiction and not in documentary, âI try to hit the truth.â
The screenwriter, former journalist William Monahan, âalways 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,â he said. âWe employed Muslim actors in three major roles. Ghassan Massoud, who plays Saladin, is a Muslim scholar, and he was very happy with the balance."