By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 5/17/2006 | 7:08 pm
Ron Howard's movie 'The Da Vinci Code', adapted from Dan Brown's best seller and world's most controversial novel, carrying the same name, was screened on Wednesday in Cannes amid Christians' protests around the world, who even called for its boycott.
The movie begins its worldwide debut with Tom Hanks as the cryptologist pursuing a 2,000-year-old mystery that could reveal Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married and that the Vatican covered it up.
The protests and the calls for boycotting the Da Vinci Code evoked a fierce debate over freedom of expression in the west, particularly in Europe, where the printing and reprinting of blasphemous cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) a few months ago had triggered violent protests worldwide.
This shows an attitude of double standards when it comes to dealing with certain issues that directly touch people's faiths.
If Europe defends freedom of expression, why then it used this pretext only when dealing with the issue of cartoons, and not with 'The Da Vinci Code'.
If the 'Da Vinci Code' is considered a dangerous book suffused with lies, distortions, and historical inaccuracies about Christianity and Jesus Christ, the cartoons were regarded as an insult to the person of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and to millions of Muslims around the world.
If Europe supports freedom of expression, then it should regard 'The Da Vinci Code' as any other book defending a theory, open to discussion!!
More recently, an Austrian court has sentenced British historian David Irving to three years in prison for denying the Holocaust in his book 'Hitler's War'. It is then inconceivable to try David Irving for denying a historical fact and not prosecuting Dan Brown for shaking Christians' faith by denying the Christ divinity!!!
What makes the difference between the holocaust case, the cartoons' crisis, and the Da Vinci Code claims? Whatever the difference is, freedom has limits. It should not be a pretext to attack people's faiths and beliefs. There should be a world consensus on rejecting the blasphemy of any prophet, from Adam to Muhammad, including Moses and Jesus.
Christian leaders around the world denounced "The Da Vinci Code," fearful that the movie may spread misinformation about their religion. Some groups even planned boycotts and attempted to block or shorten screenings ahead of its debut on Wednesday.
Their reaction should only be understandable as that of Muslim leaders over the insulting depiction of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
The UK-based Christian Enquiry Centre is distributing 270,000 specially designed cards to every cinema screening the Hollywood version of the Dan Brown bestseller. The cards feature 10 claims made in the book. Cinema goers are asked to judge whether they are fact or fiction by scratching the appropriate box.
The Vatican officials are currently discussing whether to ignore or boycott a book that has already sold 40 million copies around the world.
What do 'The Da Vinci Code' readers think?
A poll recently conducted in Britain by Opinion Research Business among a representative sample of 1,005 adults between May 12 and 14, revealed that 'The Da Vinci Code' has seriously damaged people's faith in the Christian Church.
But two thirds of Britons who have read Dan Brown's thriller believe that Jesus fathered a child with Mary Magdalene, a claim rejected as baseless by historians and Bible scholars, said the UK-based Telegraph, which published the poll.
Sixty percent of the adults polled said after reading the book that they believed there was truth in the suggestion that Jesus had children and that his bloodline survives, compared with 30 % of those who have not read it.
Just under a third (27 %) think that the Catholic Church is covering up the truth about Jesus and the figure rises to 36 % among those who have read Brown's novel.
The poll has shocked Church leaders who have mounted a massive campaign to debunk The Da Vinci Code in advance of the release of the Hollywood film version today.
The findings suggest that the book has significantly shifted attitudes towards traditional Christianity and will fuel fears that people increasingly prefer to believe in conspiracy theories that taint the Church rather than historical evidence.
Analyzing the Da Vinci code
The year's most eagerly awaited film 'The Da Vinci Code', which stars Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen and Audrey Tatou, starts with a murder in Paris Louvre Museum.
Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) returns to the famous Ritz hotel for a good night's sleep after giving a talk at the American University of Paris on mysterious runes at Chartres Cathedral.
A late-night visit from the police inspector Bezu Fache leaves him shocked: the man with whom he was supposed to meet earlier that day, Jacques Saunière, has been murdered.
Jacques Saunière's body is discovered in the Louvre's Denon Wing, not far from two of Leonardo Da Vinci's greatest works.
Near the body, the police have found an enigmatic message. With the help of Saunière's granddaughter, talented cryptologist Sophie Neveu, Langdon unravels the message: a series of clues that will lead the two on a quest for the Holy Grail.
While reading the novel or watching the movie, the core questions that come into your mind is whether there is any real evidence that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married? Who is Mary Magdalene: is she a prostitute as Christian tradition has portrayed her? If she is not, why was she portrayed as such?
Does the Gospel of Philip found at Nag Hammadi (if well translated) really state that Jesus used to kiss Mary Magdalene on the mouth or it is just a metaphor? If Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married, did they foster a bloodline that continued into modern times? Is Mary Magdalene a spiritual figure and the author of the 4th Gospel?
The question of Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene may turn the whole theory of the Christ's divinity and Christians' belief in Trinity upside down.
The divinity of Christ is also refuted by Muslims. Muslims honour and respect Jesus, son of the Virgin Mary. They believe that he was one in a long line of honourable prophets, who taught his people to worship and obey the One True Lord, the Creator.
The Qur'an makes it very clear that Jesus was a prophet, chosen by God to teach his people, but not associated with, nor part of, God Himself. He performed miracles, by the grace and power of God alone. He by himself could do nothing, all of his glory pointed back to the One Almighty God.
Muslims therefore reject the notion of the Trinity that is common in most Christian denominations today. Islam adheres to a firm monotheism, and considers such a theology to be idolatrous.
'The Da Vinci Code' also makes us think about Da Vinci's painting 'The Last Supper' and other works. Did Da Vinci embed secret symbolic messages in his paintings? Does 'The Last Supper' depict a female Mary Magdalene to the right of Christ, rather than the male apostle John?
Dan Brown also pointed out that the Bible's composition and consolidation may appear a bit too human for the comfort of some Christians. Therefore, did leaders of the Roman Catholic Church, from Constantine to Pope Gregory, carry out a concerted attack on alternative beliefs and scriptures?
Did they edit what became the accepted canon for political purposes? Did they deliberately conflate Mary Magdalene with another Mary in the Gospels who was, indeed, a prostitute?
All these questions are open to discussion. Dan Brown's 'The Da Vinci Code' is an intelligent thriller, a novel of ideas and concepts put into an action-adventure-murder mystery. Brown has given an array of fascinating ideas open to deep reflection and debate on Western history.