It seems Pakistan’s censor board is working actively these days, filtering out content that in any way challenges norms or could pave way for a debate. The latest in the line-up is Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s award-winning documentary, Among the Believers. The documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, last year, explores the roots of radical Islam and extremism and profiles Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz.
While the film has been lauded for its eye-opening narrative that gives an insight on the religious and ideological battles that prevail in Pakistan world over, local government has banned the film sighting the following reason: “the film projects a negative image of Pakistan in the context of ongoing fight against extremism and terrorism”. Co-director Naqvi, however, feels that such rigorous censoring is a point of concern. “It is a deeply worrying trend that our government is censoring Pakistani artists. After being screened in over 20 countries and winning 12 awards we are shocked that Among the Believers has been banned from screening in its own country,” Naqvi said in a press statement. “Aside from following Maulana Abdul Aziz and his Lal Masjid network for five years, the film features the stories of Pakistanis that have never been shared before… Our team has taken immense risks to feature these voices to effect change in our country. Our dream is for Pakistan to be a more tolerant and open society where there is respect for human rights. Censoring these stories is what really damages the image of Pakistan.”
It’s not the first time that a film or documentary has come in the line of fire for religious reasons or nationalistic reasons. Earlier Resham’s Swaarangi was also banned across Sindh whereas countless Bollywood films have not been screened for similar reasons.