Although the plot runs counter to Islamic teachings, Mel Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ has become a box-office hit in the Arab world, reports the Christian Science Monitor (April 9).
Islam forbids the depiction of a prophet and the Koran denies the crucifixion ever occurred. The Passion has been banned in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, yet since being released on March 18, the film is posting record sales in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
While the film is particularly popular among the Maronite Christians in Lebanon, both Christians and Muslims in the Middle East see in the movie’s depiction of Jesus’ agony their own hardships. Christians marginal identity in such countries as Syria and Lebanon and Islamic hostility toward Israel are both validated by images of Jesus suffering under the Jews, with Muslims identifying Israel’s recent attacks on Palestinian leaders as an example of such suffering.
Such sentiments have alarmed Israeli and other Jewish leaders who accuse Gibson of fanning the flames of anti-Semitism.