'Da Vinci Code' film banned in Pakistan, parts of India

Pakistan has joined seven of India's 29 states in banning the movie The Da Vinci Code saying it is insulting to Christians.

Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in the Da Vinci Code
Pakistan's Minister of Culture Ghulam Jamal announced Saturday that the film would not be shown in the country out of respect for Pakistan's Christian minority, which comprises three per cent of the 150 million population.

"The Da Vinci Code is a sacrilegious act in the guise of freedom of expression and fiction," said Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian leader in Pakistan.

Pakistan's announcement comes in the wake of Friday's proclamation by officials in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, who said they would join six other states including Goa, Punjab and Tamil Nadu in banning the movie.

The movie starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou is based on the best-selling book by Dan Brown.

'Attacks Gospel'

"The film's storyline attacked the very heart of the Holy Gospel, destroying the divinity of Jesus Christ," said Paul Bhuyan, the special chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh. Christians make up one per cent of the state's 80 million people.

In terms of India's entire population of one billion people, only two per cent is Christian.

Part of the Da Vinci Code's premise is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, that she bore him a child, and that their familial line has continued to modern times.

"The release of the movie could have led to demonstrations and trouble," pointed out Bhuyan.

Marampudi Joji, the Roman Catholic bishop in Hyderabad, India, said he appreciated the decision and was "grateful" to the state government.

Despite the film's controversy and bad reviews, it earned $224 million US worldwide in its first three days, the second-largest debut at the global box office.

Columbia Pictures was so pleased with the movie's performance that it announced plans to turn Brown's earlier book introducing symbologist Robert Langdon, Angels and Demons, into a movie. Hanks plays Langdon in The Da Vinci Code.

The film was released May 26 in India and has been playing to packed houses.

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