Muslims continue to rush to see Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ”

The enthusiasm surrounding Mel Gibson’s cinematic depiction of Jesus Christ’s last hours before crucifixion is still continuing in the Middle East, 2 months after it first opened. Surprisingly both critics and supporters alike, as well as many people in predominantly Muslim countries of Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar, Syria, and Egypt are still flocking to see the realistic depiction of Jesus’s love and suffering during the persecution and sadistic torture by his tormenters.

Local newspapers recorded the surprise blockbuster of this profoundly Christian movie, something unheard of in the Muslim world. Muslims do not consider Jesus to be the Son of God but do hold him in high regard as a prophet. However, until the release of this movie, few Muslims had heard of the Gospel and even fewer had read the New Testament. Although Christians and Jews are considered people with God’s revealed Word, few Muslims actually venture to read the Bible out of societal restrictions, and some even express open hostility towards the Bible.

Often Muslims who do convert Christian are unfortunately persecuted by their families and those in their communities. Murdering one’s own family member who rejects Islam for Christianity is not unheard of in some Muslim countries since becoming Christian is considered a family disgrace. Many testimonies of death threats from families of Muslims turned Christians are documented at 'Answering Islam'

Missionaries who have written to World Pulse (Evangelism Missions Information Service) say that the Gospel has been spread very quickly by this movie.

"Until now we have only been able to show the ‘JESUS’ film in Arabic to a handful of [Muslims] in the secret of a home setting,” one missionary said. Another said that "any attempt to share the biblical message of Christ's death and resurrection is usually considered an attempt to proselytise and is greatly discouraged by governments." The Passion of the Christ movie, however, has been able to reach a much wider audience without much governmental interference.

One missionary wrote to World Pulse, "Today after class, two of my girl students came up to me and asked, 'Do you have the New Testament in Arabic? My friends and I all want to read it.' Another asked where to get an Arabic Bible on the Internet."

Another said, "In two short hours, more [locals] heard the gospel than I have been able to reach in nearly five years of living here. The Muslims sitting around us were being moved -- gasping, crying and reacting with disgust to the brutality that Jesus faced."

Even within the heavily censored Iranian theatres, according to the Associated Press, Iran's Islamic Cultural and Guidance Ministry unanimously approved in late April, that movie theatres could play the movie without any omissions, despite objections by many Sunni Muslims.

Much of the interest has apparently stemmed from rumours of anti-Semitism in the movie; viewers are however very much surprised and moved by the love and suffering of Jesus Christ during the hours leading to his crucifixion.