The Lady of Heaven, blasphemy and free speech

The Lady of Heaven is a British historical drama about the life of Fatimah, daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, written from the perspective of Shia Islam. It was released on 3 June 2022 in cinemas in the UK and immediately generated enormous controversy. The Muslim Council of Britain condemned it as “divisive” and, after protests by some Muslim groups, the Cineworld cinema chain decided not to screen it – though some other cinemas did. The British Board of Film Classification gave it an age-15 certificate and explained why it did so here.

Controversies about the historicity of the film are a matter for Islamic scholars, which I am not: the subsequent calls for its suppression, however, raise important issues about alleged blasphemy and free speech. Continue reading