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noah banned
Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic "Noah" is already facing an uphill battle at the international box office, as several Middle Eastern countries have banned the film, citing Muslim law.

According to Islam, films portraying prophets are forbidden, and Noah is considered a prophet of the Muslim god Allah. The governments of Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates have already notified "Noah" studio Paramount that they will not allow the film's release in their respective countries, and Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait are expected to follow suit.

While "Noah" already has an Egyptian release date -- March 26 -- the country's Sunni Muslim institute Al-Azhar has condemned the film, issuing a statement on Thursday that said the movie is "contrary to faith and to the fundamentals of the Islamic Sharia [law]."

"Al-Azhar renews its rejection to the screening of any production that characterizes Allah's prophets and messengers and the companions of the Prophet [Mohammed]," the statement said. "Therefore, Al-Azhar announces the prohibition of the upcoming film about the Allah's messenger Noah -- peace be upon him."

Muslim countries aren't the only ones raising questions about "Noah." Religious groups in the United States have also challenged the movie for its dark take on the titular character, prompting Paramount to "alter the marketing materials for Noah to make clear that it is a creative rather than a literal adaptation of The Bible story," according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Russell Crowe, who plays Noah, made headlines last week for pleading with Catholic leader Pope Francis I to see the film. It seems Crowe may have to do some more pleading if he wants any religious moviegoer to see it at all.

"Noah," which also stars Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Ray Winstone, is set for a U.S. release on March 28.

[Photo courtesy Paramount]