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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Judge rejects French Passion ban
The Passion of the Christ
Jim Caviezel portrays Jesus in the Passion of the Christ
A judge in France has rejected a request by three Jewish brothers to ban Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.

Patrick, Gerard and Jean-Marc Benlolo argued that the controversial film, about the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, would incite anti-Semitism.

However Judge Florence Lagemi ruled on Monday that the film, due to be released in France on Wednesday, was not a threat to public order.

Claims of anti-Semitism stemmed from "a narrow view" of the film, she said.

"To make the death of Jesus into the major motivation of anti-Semitism that leads to secular persecutions against Jews would stem from a narrow view of Mel Gibson's film," said Judge Lagemi following a private screening of the film.

Fighting racism

The Benlolo brothers plan to appeal. They claim The Passion of the Christ contains a "false and erroneous vision of certain religious events".

"There is so much violent anti-Semitism in Europe that we cannot let this happen," said Patrick Benlolo.

Meanwhile, the film topped the UK box office on its opening weekend with takings of over 2 million, according to unofficial figures.

It is also said to have prompted a Norwegian neo-Nazi to admit to two arson attacks against squatters.

After watching the film, Johnny Olsen, 41, is reported to have confessed to police about the 1990s attacks in Oslo.

The Passion of the Christ
Gibson hopes the film will inspire "tolerance, love and forgiveness"

Mr Olsen's lawyer Fridtjof Feydt said his client had been concerned about reconciliation and redemption for a while.

"The trigger that made him go to police and confess was that movie," he told Reuters news agency.

Police charged Mr Olsen with arson after his confession at the weekend.

No-one died in the fire-bombings in 1994 and 1995 during a wave of street fights between neo-Nazis and anarchists.

Last week the French Government announced plans to include the films The Pianist and Schindler's List in the school curriculum, in a bid to combat growing anti-Semitism.

'Very moved'

Education minister Luc Ferry cited a 10-fold rise in attacks against Jews in France.

He believes films like Roman Polanski's The Pianist and Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List could prove useful tools for fighting racism among young people.

"When you see a film like Schindler's List you are clearly very moved. You understand much better the reality of racism and anti-Semitism," Mr Ferry told the Sunday Telegraph.

Despite being filmed in the ancient language Aramaic and Latin, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has been a surprise box office success.

Gibson, a committed Catholic, vehemently denies the charges of anti-Semitism.


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