Sheikh Jackson: Netflix boycott calls over film deemed offensive to Muslims

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By Pascale Davies
The film shows a dance group disturbing an Imam's prayers in a mosque with the Michael Jackson 'Thriller' choreography.
The film shows a dance group disturbing an Imam's prayers in a mosque with the Michael Jackson 'Thriller' choreography.   -  Copyright  OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP or licensors

Fired-up French Netflix subscribers have taken to Twitter to call for a boycott of the streaming giant after it broadcast a scene from the film Sheikh Jackson, which social media users said was offensive to Islam.

The hashtag #BoycottNetflix was trending on Twitter in France on Thursday, with hundreds calling for people to unsubscribe from the platform. But hundreds of other users disagreed Netflix should be boycotted as this would be censorship.

The 2017 Egyptian film was criticised for a scene which shows an imam being disturbed during his prayers in a mosque by a flash mob dancing to Michael Jackson's infamous Thriller choreography.

But a source close to the streaming giant told Euronews that the movie was never made available to its French market and that the extract could not have originated from Netflix.

According to the source, the movie has only been available for users in the Middle East and northern Africa since April 8, 2019, and never provoked such a negative reaction.

Many Twitter users said the scene was "massively disrespectful" towards Muslims and called it "shocking".

Another said Netflix "will understand that our religion is neither for sale nor for laughter only when we Muslims across France hit them in their wallets".

But the topic proved controversial with other Twitter users saying the film was just using humour.

"When I saw the #BoycottNetflix I thought people were going to understand the real concerns of the platform... but in the end, it's just to boycott a humorous film. It bothers no one when it's yet another joke about Catholic priests."

And other comments tried to remain neutral by saying the best thing to do was to simply not watch the film, "rather than adding to hate".

The film by Amr Salama is about an Islamic cleric who likes to dress as Michael Jackson. But he is thrown into turmoil in the wake of the singer's death. It was referred to Al-Azhar University in Egypt in 2017 for investigation of blasphemy and was cleared by Egypt's censorship committee.

It received critical acclaim when it was shown at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and was Egypt's official contender for an Academy Awad in the best foreign-language film category.