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Wolf Hall religion is ‘like Islam’

23 January 2015


Beheading: Anne Boleyn, on her way to be executed, played by the actor Claire Foy in the BBC's Wolf Hall

Beheading: Anne Boleyn, on her way to be executed, played by the actor Claire Foy in the BBC's Wolf Hall

ISLAM today is at the same point of violent turmoil as Christianity was during Henry VIII's Reformation, the director of the BBC's adaptation of Hilary Mantel's best-selling novel of those times, Wolf Hall, says.

The Booker Prize-winning story charts the rise of Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's chief minister, as the King pursued an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.

Peter Kosminsky, the director of the BBC2 dramatisation, which started on Wednesday, was asked by the Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis if he thought that religious idealism, as displayed by Henry's friend Sir Thomas More, was not coming from Christian leaders today, but from radical Islam.

Mr Kosminsky agreed that the concept was "very much" in his mind when he was working on the programme. He said: "It struck me that Islam is about 500 years younger than Christianity as a religion, which means that this drama, set about 500 years ago, looks at a time when Christianity was about the same age as a religion as Islam is today.

"So we look at some of the extraordinarily extreme things that radical Islam, jihadists, are doing - cutting people's heads off, massacring Shias - over points of what might appear to outsiders [to be] fairly arcane differences of religious dogma. But look back 500 years to what Christianity was doing in that time: cutting people's heads off and putting them on pikes . . . burning people alive . . . and often over disagreements: for example, whether the Bible should be available in the vernacular."

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