Byline: GORDON RAYNER
WITH scenes of Saracen hordes attacking churches and Christian knights slaughtering Muslims, Kingdom of Heaven was always going to attract controversy.
But the [pounds sterling]75million Crusades epic directed by Sir Ridley Scott has also been accused of distorting the facts and inflaming religious hatred.
One leading academic described it as 'Osama Bin Laden's version of history', claiming it will 'fuel Islamic fundamentalists' through its portrayal of the crusaders as the film's villains.
Scott, whose film credits include Gladiator and Alien, is also under fire from some Muslim scholars, who claim the movie is ' anti-Islamic'.
The film's central character is a blacksmith called Balian played by Orlando Bloom, who defends Jerusalem in 1187 against the Muslim warrior leader Saladin.
In one scene, frenzied Christian crowds are told that killing an Arab is the fastest way to heaven, while the King of Jerusalem, Guy of Lusignan, is the warmongering villain desperate to slaughter 'tolerant' Muslims.
Scott, 67, was forced to defend the film as it premiered in London's Leicester Square last night, claiming it was based on historical fact and 'challenges extremism of all kinds'.
But the country's leading expert on the Crusades, Cambridge academic Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith, dismissed the film as 'rubbish' and 'dangerous to Arab relations'.
He said: 'It's not historically accurate at all. It depicts the Muslims as sophisticated and civilised, and the crusaders are all brutes and barbarians.
It has nothing to do with reality.
'Guy of Lusignan lost the battle against Saladin, but he wasn't any badder or better than anyone else.
This is Osama Bin Laden's version of history. …