Clerics cringe as Indonesians flock to doomsday film '2012'

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The Independent Culture

Hollywood's latest doomsday offering "2012" has caused a storm in Indonesia, with conservative clerics condemning it Thursday as a "provocation against Islam".

Screenings have been sold out across the capital Jakarta following the film's success in North America, where it beat Disney's "A Christmas Carol" to top the box office honours last weekend.

It looks likely to repeat its success in Indonesia, the Southeast Asian archipelago with the world's biggest Muslim population, judging by the queues at cinemas in its opening days this week.

But while most viewers said they had enjoyed the film's apocalyptic vision of life after December 21, 2012, when the fulfilment of a Mayan prophecy sees the Earth engulfed by catastrophe, senior clerics were deeply troubled.

The country's top Islamic body, the National Council of Ulema (MUI), is divided over whether or not to issue a fatwa or religious edict against the film. One local branch has already done so, to little apparent effect.

"The controversial things about the film are, first, in Islam doomsday should not be visualised or predicted, it's the secret of God," council chairman Amidhan told AFP.

"For the common people, the portrayal of doomsday in this film could distort their faith - that's what I'm worried about."

He also complained that the film showed mosques being destroyed but not churches, despite sequences depicting the Vatican collapsing and Rio de Janeiro's monumental Christ the Redeemer statue crumbling to pieces.

"The film shows that everything including Kaaba (Islam holiest shrine) and mosques were devastated except for churches. The film is a provocation against Islam," Amidhan said.

"The Indonesian film censorship body should have cut part of the scene on the devastation of mosques or the Kaaba because it hurts the Muslim people."

But few people who emerged from a packed matinee showing in Jakarta on Thursday shared the clerics' worries.

"It's actually a beautiful film. The MUI branch is wrong about issuing a fatwa as the movie actually has increased my faith and not the other way around," insurance broker Ian Ramelan, 49, said.

"I'm a Muslim, my faith in Allah is stronger after watching this flick," he added, urging the clerics to worry more about rampant corruption in Indonesia than about Hollywood's apocalyptic Christmas blockbuster.

University student Rafi Gamal, 22, said he understood that some people might think the film controversial "because men were able to predict doomsday and thus played the role of God".

"But then again it's just another natural disaster movie in which there are some survivors in the end. The end of the world means that there'll be no survivors," he said.

Junior high school student Steven Benedictto, 14, said the film had a positive message.

"I disagree with the MUI that people should not watch this movie. It has a beautiful message that we all should repent and industries should reduce their sinful activities, such as deforestation," he said.

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