Tim Allen and Tom Hanks play Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody in Pixar’s “Toy Story.”
Dubai, United Arab Emirates – Disney Pixar’s animated film “Lightyear” hits theaters this week and is expected to attract enthusiastic “Toy Story” fans from several countries around the world.
Not in the UAE, however.
The United Arab Emirates’ Media Regulatory Office announced on Monday that it would ban the release of the film, based on what it called a “violation of the country’s media content standards”, the office wrote in a statement. tweet. The feature was due to be released in theaters across the United Arab Emirates on Thursday.
The government body did not specify in its tweet which part of “Lightyear” violated its content standards, but executive director Rashid Khalfan Al Nuaimi told Reuters it was based on the inclusion of gay characters. The film features a homosexual relationship and a brief kiss.
The decision received mixed reactions online, with some Twitter users praising the decision.
“Thank you so much for saving our children,” said one user, whose bio featured UAE flags, in response to the tweet.
Others criticized the ban, with one user writing, “A country still living in the 1300s.”
On Tuesday night in Dubai, “Lightyear” was still advertised as a Thursday premiere on the UAE’s Vox Cinemas website. Disney did not immediately return CNBC’s request for comment.
An inflatable Disney+ logo is pictured during a press event ahead of the launch of a streaming service in the Middle East and North Africa, at the Dubai Opera in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, June 7, 2022 .
Youssef Saba | Reuters
Homosexuality is criminalized in the United Arab Emirates, as well as in the rest of the Gulf countries and in the majority of the Muslim world. According to entertainment news site Deadline Hollywood, “Lightyear” will not air in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Egypt or Indonesia, the latter being the most populous Muslim country. of the world with 274 million inhabitants.
It will also not be shown in Malaysia, according to a tweet from the country’s main cinema chain, GSC, which posted a photo of Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear character and the words “Not Beyond” – a reference to the tagline. of the character, “to infinity and beyond.”
The UAE ban comes despite an announcement last year that the country would no longer censor films. This change was part of a broader package of modernization reforms, including the decriminalization of premarital sex and the shift from Islamic weekends (Friday-Saturday) to Saturday-Sunday weekends, with the aim of to be more globally competitive and to attract additional foreign investment and talent.
Women bathers sit along a beach in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on July 24, 2020, while behind is the Burj al-Arab hotel.
KARIM SAHIB | AFP via Getty Images
For years, the United Arab Emirates has presented itself as a modern and tolerant haven in an otherwise very conservative region. The oil-rich desert sheikh is home to a 90% expatriate population and allows drinking alcohol, wearing bikinis on public beaches, and other cultural items often banned in Muslim countries.
Its nightclubs resemble those in Europe, it regularly hosts concerts by famous rappers and pop stars, and it even eased penalties on some of its drug laws last year. In 2016, he created a Ministry of Tolerance.
However, homosexuality remains taboo in the country. When the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, posted an Instagram post depicting a rainbow expressing support for the LGBTQ+ community, it was met with backlash from the community. from users in the country.
This is not the first time the US Embassy has celebrated LGBTQ+ rights in the UAE. Last year it hoisted the Pride flag at its premises, marking the first time a diplomatic mission has flown a gay pride flag in the religiously conservative Arabian Gulf. The British Embassy also hoisted a pride flag last year.