The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) did not consult any Muslim experts before giving the go-ahead for the anti-Sunni hate film The Lady of Heaven to be released in UK cinemas with a “15” certificate.
After the unveiling, protesters heavily criticized the BBFC for ignoring the voices of Muslims over a film that has sparked outrage among British Muslims, as protests took place outside cinemas across England and nearly 130,000 people signed a petition to get it off screens to remove.
In an email exchange with 5Pillars, the BBFC used evasive language and, despite repeated requests, would not confirm whether they had consulted any Muslim experts. This is despite the arson of the film, which 5Pillars reported more than five months ago.
When asked directly about this issue, the BBFC did not give a clear answer.
Her press team said: “We base our classification guidelines on regular consultations with over 10,000 people across the UK to ensure our classification decisions reflect broad public opinion. We also work closely with experts in specific fields, including child psychologists, education experts, charities and other organizations to inform our approach. We are accountable to both Parliament and the people of the UK.
“As noted in our statement, there is nothing in The Lady of Heaven that exceeds our 15 rating guidelines.”
Upon receiving this statement, 5Pillars again asked the BBFC for clarification on whether they had consulted Muslims – to which we received another evasive reply.
The BBFC said: “As previously mentioned, the policy review takes place every four to five years, where we speak to a wide range of people, taking into account race, ethnicity, gender, belief and identity, to ensure that our Policies are representative of views of people across the country. Occasionally and when necessary, we consult experts and individuals in specific areas on specific decisions.”
Muslim protesters and imams have criticized the BBFC for its oversight.
Maulana Usman, from Bradford, told 5Pillars: “We criticize the British Board of Film Classification for not consulting Muslim Sunni scholars regarding the content of this film and the authenticity and veracity of the claims made therein. We want our voice raised, we want to voice this concern because the BBFC are at the root of this problem as this film is being released without consulting mainstream Muslim scholars.”
And Shaykh Muhammad Umar Ramadhan of Rochdale said: “It’s just very shocking and very disturbing because they made a decision to reward the film without an independent Muslim academic viewpoint, an examination. I find it extremely sad and condemn it from the bottom of my heart, they should have had the courtesy to at least contact us or any professor or academic or university specialist on the subject of Islam.”
Earlier, the BBFC issued a general statement on the film to the media.
“We classify content in accordance with our published classification guidelines, which are the result of extensive consultation with thousands of people across the UK, extensive research and over 100 years of experience. They are updated every four to five years to ensure our standards continue to reflect the expectations and values of people across the country.
“We rated The Lady Of Heaven 15 for strong gory violence, gory imagery and menace. For each film we classify, we provide content guidance — which we call “rating information” — on our website and app so viewers can decide for themselves whether a film is right for them or their family. You can see the review information for The Lady Of Heaven here.
“Occasionally, we will consider some content unsuitable for classification, in line with the goal of preventing significant risks of harm to potential viewers and to society through their conduct. As an accountable and transparent organization, this decision and the reasons for it are communicated to the dealer and the public. However, there is nothing in The Lady Of Heaven that exceeds our classification guidelines at 15 or is deemed unworthy of classification.
“Filmmakers are free to explore historical or controversial themes and events in their films. The BBFC’s role is to ensure that content is appropriately classified based on our policies, to protect children and other vulnerable groups from potential harm and to empower consumers to make informed viewing decisions.”