Iran announced on Monday it was yanking out its entry from the Oscar race because of the ‘intolerable insult’ of the US-made anti-Islam film that has angered Muslims in several countries.
Oscars organisers in Los Angeles said they had not heard officially from Iranian authorities, after the announcement in Tehran by Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini.
“I am officially announcing that in reaction to the intolerable insult to the Great Prophet of Islam we will refrain from taking part in this year’s Oscars and we ask other Islamic nations to show their protest like this,” the minister said.
Iran was pulling its sole movie entered in the Academy Awards, A Cube of Sugar, after discussions with its production company, he said.
The move reflected Iran’s fury over the low-budget film Innocence of Muslims made by a group of extremist Christians in the United States that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed.
The amateurish video, made in California with private financing and posted on YouTube, portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womaniser and a fool.
Excerpts of it dubbed into Arabic and available on the Internet have sparked protests in many Muslim countries, some of which have turned deadly — including one September 11 incident in Libya in which the US ambassador to the country and three other US officials were killed.
The US government has stressed it had nothing to do with the film, and regretted its content, but said adherence to freedom of expression meant it could not censor the movie.
“The position that Western politicians have adopted on these great insults are no different from a position of enmity,” Iranian media quoted Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying on Monday.
Several non-violent protests against the film have taken place in Tehran. “This film was made in America and the Oscars are held there, and so far no official stance by the nation which made this film has been taken,” Hosseini said,.
Despite tough censorship, Iranian art cinema has earned international acclaim over the past 20 years. In the last Academy Awards, an Iranian film, A Separation, won the Oscar for best foreign language film. A spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles said, “We’ve seen the news reports, but haven’t had any direct communication from the Iranian Selection Committee.”
Film is an insult to US as well: Obama
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly, US President Barack Obama challenged the international community to confront the root causes of turmoil in the Middle East, saying the world faces “a choice between the forces that would drive us apart and the hopes we hold in common.” He said that the video is an “insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well.” He remembered slain envoy to Libya Stevens as a man who “saw dignity in the people he met.”