Pakistani Islamists get ready to bash Da Vinci Code

Karachi, Pakistan - Pakistan's Islamist parties will hold nationwide demonstrations against "The Da Vinci Code" later this week, to protest the film's "offensive" alternative take on the story of Jesus Christ, an opposition lawmaker said on Monday.

The adaptation of Dan Brown's best-selling novel, the story of a Vatican cover-up involving Christ and his supposed offspring, has recorded a $224 million global opening.

"The film is offensive toward a holy figure dear to all religions," Liaquat Balouch, deputy secretary-general of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, the main Islamist political alliance, told Reuters.

Muslims regard Christ as an important prophet, but not as great as Islam's Prophet Mohammad.

Films or cartoons that hurt the sentiments of any religion in the name of culture should be rejected by the people, Balouch said, adding that rallies against the film would be held after Friday prayers.

No Pakistani film exhibitor had planned to screen the movie, but sellers of pirated DVDs and VCDs were expecting to be able to offer it for sale by the end of the day.

"There is a huge demand for 'The Da Vinci Code'," Salman Shakir, a shopkeeper in the southern city of Karachi.

"We already have several orders lined up even though the initial prints are poor quality."

Christians, who make up less then 10 percent of predominantly Muslim Pakistan, fear the film could spread misunderstanding about their faith.

"We want people of other religions to also protest against the film," said Javed Williams of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference. "It has caused disappointment in the Pakistani Catholic community."

Church leaders worldwide are divided over how they should respond to "The Da Vinci Code." Some demand that censors ban the film, or cut scenes that they say undermine Christian beliefs.