A film on the life of prophet Muhammad is expected to break box office records in Shi'ite Muslim Iran after its release on Thursday, but some Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world are already demanding that Tehran ban it.
The state-sponsored Muhammad, Messenger of God, directed by Oscar-nominated director Majid Majidi, is at $40 million Iran's most expensive movie to date.
"I decided to make this film to fight against the new wave of Islamophobia in the West. The Western interpretation of Islam is full of violence and terrorism," Majidi was quoted as saying by Hezbollah Line, a conservative Iranian magazine.
The 171-minute movie, the first part of a planned trilogy, focuses on the prophet's childhood. His face will not be shown on screen, in accordance with traditional Islamic strictures. The camera shows the boy actor playing him only from behind, or only his shadow.
A steadicam was customized especially to depict Muhammad's point of view by the movie's Oscar-winning Italian cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. The identity of the boy playing Muhammad has not been made public.
Egypt's Al-Azhar, the most prestigious institute of Sunni Islam, is not satisfied with such precautions and has called on Iran to ban the film.
"This matter is already settled. Sharia (Islamic law) prohibits embodying the prophets," Al-Azhar told Reuters in a statement.