Release of the award-winning film “Zindagi Tamasha” (Circus of Life) has been suspended in Pakistan after Islamic hardliners accused it of being “blasphemous.”
Pakistani filmmaker Sarmad Khoosat spoke of threats and bullying he had received over the film. He implored people “not to spew hate, fear and anger in the name of religion,” the BBC reports.
Protests against the film, which portrays the life of a struggling cleric, were spearheaded by the Islamist group, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP).
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, who heads up TLP, accused Khoosat of blasphemy.
Khoosat has filed a legal petition against the TLP for interfering “in the smooth running [sic] affairs of releasing the film,” which he said is intended to “promote positivity in society”.
Critics have long contended blasphemy laws are used to persecute religious minorities or settle personal scores.
On Jan. 21 Rizvi’s cousin, brother, and 84 others were handed down 55-year prison sentences each for their role in violent protests sparked after a Catholic woman, Asia Bibi, was acquitted on blasphemy charges in November 2018.
Rizvi had helped organize those protests and was indicted on charges of sedition and terrorism in November 2018.
“Zindagi Tamasha” premiered at the Busan International Film Festival last year, where it won the Kim Ji-seok Award.
The film was set to premiere in Pakistan on Jan. 24, but has since been sent to the country’s Council of Islamic Ideology for further review.
Watch the trailer for the film below.