Fear of Fatwa: Roland Emmerich Chickens Out

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In Roland Emmerich’s baroque apocalypse-fantasy, 2012, you’ll see lots of famous and iconic landmarks (the White House, the Sistine Chapel, Christ the Redeemer, etc.) being destroyed, but one significant monument wont get touched. Emmerich had initially planned to include the annihilation of the Kaaba — the cuboidal building in Mecca that’s the center of Islamic prayer — but got cold feet for fear of reprisal from fundamentalists. Wuss!

In an interview with Patrick Lee of Sci-Fi Wire, Emmerich explains:

“Well, I wanted to do that, I have to admit, but my co-writer Harald said: I will not have a fatwa on my head because of a movie. And he was right. We have to all … in the Western world … think about this. You can actually let Christian symbols fall apart, but if you would do this with [an] Arab symbol, you would have a fatwa, and that sounds a little bit like what the state of this world is. So it’s just something which I kind of didn’t [think] was [an] important element, anyway, in the film, so I kind of left it out.”

This strikes me as fairly cowardly for a director who, in the same interview, baldly states that he’s “against organized religion.” The confession also comes just days after Qatari media company Al Noor Holdings announced its plans to produce a $150 million dollar, English-language feature about the Prophet Mohammed. Islamic tradition dictates that neither Prophet Mohammed nor direct members of his family can be depicted in any way, yet Al Noor is nevertheless forging ahead with its equally fatwa-worthy plan in the hope of establishing a more positive portrayal of Islam around the world. Their example makes Emmerich look all the more craven.