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Banned Pakistani film enters Oscars race

Rights activists welcome the nomination of a controversial film censored in a blasphemy row

Banned Pakistani film enters Oscars race

Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan is seeking a blanket ban of 'Zindagi Tamasha' after claiming it is blasphemous.

Human rights activists in Pakistan have welcomed the nomination of a film accused of being blasphemous for this year’s Academy Awards.

Zindagi Tamasha (Circus of Life) was banned last year after workers of the hardline Islamist political party Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) vowed to hold a countrywide protest against its screening.

The film follows a naat khuan (reciter of religious poems) who is ostracized by the community and family members after a video of him dancing at a wedding goes viral. According to media reports, the first trailer hinted at the misuse of the blasphemy laws.

Professor Taimur Rehman, a political activist and member of liberal rock band Laal, tweeted on Jan. 27 that TLP was seeking a blanket ban of the film on Netflix after persuading the Pakistan government to ban it.

Earlier this month, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority called for a ban on Netflix for releasing a film about Lady Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad.

Sarmad Khoosat, who directed Zindagi Tamasha, received death threats, attended multiple court summons and faced censorship demands last year.

Writer Fatima Bhutto, a niece of slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto, praised Khoosat in a tweet for the film’s nomination to the best international feature category at the Oscars.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Jan. 29, Samson Salamat, chairman of the interfaith group Rwadari Tehreek (movement for religious tolerance), called for immediate action to stop increasing incidents of religious intolerance, provocation, hate speech and religiously motivated violence.

“We urged the government to ensure that the constitutional and legal systems provide effective guarantees of freedom of thought, religion or belief, including the provision of effective remedies in cases where the right to freedom of religion or belief is violated,” he said.

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