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Islamic Movie 'Ayat Ayat Cinta' Wows Indonesian Audiences

A hugely popular movie based on an Indonesian Islamic novel is drawing record crowds to theaters in Indonesia. As VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins reports from Jakarta, Islamic novels, movies and songs are becoming increasingly popular in the country.

"Ayat Ayat Cinta," which roughly translates into "Verses of Love," is one of the biggest selling movies to hit Indonesia in recent years.

People are flocking to cinemas across the country to watch this Islamic movie that has been adapted from the best selling novel of the same name.

The story follows the life of a young Indonesian man, named Fahri, who moves to Egypt to study at the Al-Azhar University and the problems he encounters and attempts to solve through the teachings of Islam.

Long, melodramatic, yet gorgeously shot in Central Java and India, Ayat Ayat Cinta is, at the end of the day, a love story.

Fahri must choose a wife from four very different women and, along the way, he espouses women's rights by reciting from the Koran, yet also takes a second wife, again, in accordance with Islamic teachings.

The movie is part of a current trend in this secular, democratic nation with the world's largest Muslim population, where Islamic teachings are reaching popular culture through movies, books, and songs.

Filmmaker Hanung Bramantyo says he wanted to make this movie to show a different side of Islam, which he says is often associated with terrorism and intolerance, in the Western media.

He says he chose to make the movie because, in the novel, the teachings of Islam are presented in a positive way and Muslims are portrayed as a people who practice tolerance, patience, sincerity and honesty.

During one memorable scene, passengers on a crowded Cairo train refuse to give up their seats to an ailing, elderly American woman, because of their anger towards the United States.

But Fahri saves the day, preaching that Islam is a religion of tolerance and one that extends welcome towards all foreigners.

Although most Indonesians practice a moderate form of the faith, a small-but-vocal minority are hardline, militant Muslims who want to see Islamic law implemented in the country.

Filmmaker Hanung says his message of tolerance is aimed at all Muslims and that he thinks the movie is popular because it reaches out to common people and talks about ordinary lives and ordinary problems.

He says using the media is one way to get out Islamic teaching and values to the general population.

Movie-goer Fatima seems to share his view.

She says she liked the film because it has a message of faith; one that she thinks resonates with many Indonesians.