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French Version

'The Da Vinci Code' - book banned, what will happen to the movie ?

Worried that you can't buy a copy of Dan Brown's best-selling novel "The Da Vinci Code" in Beirut? Don't be. Just hop on a plane to the United Arab Emirates (or almost any other foreign port) and buy it at Dubai International Airport where the book is available in Arabic and English. Then merely bring it back on your return.

The producers of the upcoming Hollywood movie based on the blockbuster novel were banned from filming in Britain's Westminster Abbey because church officials denounced the book as "theologically unsound."

If the making of the film is causing this much trouble in Europe, imagine what will happen in Lebanon when "The Da Vinci Code" comes out in 2006. Or, as is more likely, doesn't come out.

Starring Tom Hanks as the book's central character Professor Robert Langdon as well as Ian McKellen, Jean Reno and Audrey Tautou there is little doubt it will be the biggest worldwide hit of the year.

Banning Lebanese audiences from seeing it on the big screen, while allowing such movies as Mel Gibson's bloodthirsty and extreme "The Passion of the Christ" to show free of censorship, will cause serious debate considering Lebanon's passion for all films Hollywood and the profits to be made from putting bums on seats.

Back in London, Westminster Abbey said in statement that "Although a real page turner, 'The Da Vinci code' is theologically unsound and we cannot commend or endorse the contentious and wayward religious and historic suggestions made in the book - nor its views of Christianity and the New Testament.

"It would therefore be inappropriate to film scenes from the book here."

The statement from Westminster Abbey, which appears in scenes toward the end of Brown's novel, also insisted some of the book's details were factually inaccurate.

It said it would be providing the Abbey's marshals with information to clear up the mistakes for visiting tourists drawn to the church by its appearance in the novel.

"We are already receiving regular, daily inquiries related to the book and we expect these to continue and even grow in the next couple of years, even with no effort on our own part, simply because the book is so popular," its statement said.

Even if you hadn't missed the controversy the book has aroused, you don't even have to travel to find out what all the fuss is about. Walk into any Lebanese bookshop and choose from any one of a plethora of books about the book, such as "Cracking The Da Vinci Code," "The Da Vinci Hoax - Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code," "Secrets of the Code: The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code" and even "The Truth Behind the Da Vinci Code: A Challenging Response to the Bestselling Novel" for example, which all explain Brown's ideas, claim to separate the fact from fiction, or denounce it completely.

With a few clicks of the mouse you can access any information you want on the novel over the Internet and even order it - though there is no guarantee it will get through customs.

Still the banning of the book, which is after all a fiction, merely increases its prominence.

In Lebanon, the bestselling novel - which alleges Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, thus going against the general Christian teachings that Christ never married and was childless when he was crucified - has been banned in all its translations since last September.

Earlier this month Jordan became the most recent state to ban the book when authorities confiscated copies from a local publishing house, say reports in the Amman daily Al-Ghad.

The paper quoted the president of the state's Publication Department, Ahmad Kodat, as saying: "This book is largely harmful for Christianity and was banned from many countries, including Lebanon."

Here last September Father Abdo Abu Kasm, president of Lebanon's Catholic Information Center, argued that the contents of the "The Da Vinci Code" were "insulting."

In an interview published then in The Daily Star he explained: "(The novel) said that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and sired a bloodline. We denounce such attempts to harm Christian beliefs. It may be allowed in other countries, but in Lebanon, the law forbids the harming of religious beliefs."

The Surete General in Lebanon always consults the country's religious authorities on books that touch on religion and then takes action it sees fit.

But in the end, the country's banning of "The Da Vinci Code" is a moot point since the book is widely available in nearby countries and a cursory glance over the reading material of sun worshippers at a Byblos beach resort over the last weekend revealed the novel is as popular and available as ever in Lebanon.

Beirut 06-06-2005
Ramsay Short
The Daily Star

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