‘Short tales of the Hijab’

January 13, 2011 — Review

Written by Liz Fekete

A forthcoming documentary that explores the lives of Muslim women who wear the hijab is a must-see film, full of surprises.

One of the most pernicious side-effects of the current wave of Islamophobia sweeping through Europe is the way that it denies the individuality of Muslim women and girls who wear the veil. The idea that any woman who wears the veil is submissive to patriarchal Islam even leads some feminists to argue that religious Muslim women are not their allies, because they have chosen to live their lives ‘outside feminism’. Short Tales of the Hijab, an exciting 52-minute documentary film, which will be released shortly, explores the lives of four women who wear the veil. It is a highly-polished professional endeavour made on a shoe-string budget by the journalist Naima Bouteldja and theatre director, Fatima Ali, founders of Red Rag Productions. (View a trailer here.)

Short Tales of the Hijab follows the lives of four veiled women, from different generations and backgrounds, in France, Germany, Belgium and the UK, over a nine-month period in 2010. But while the ‘fly on the wall’ documentary formula may give the impression that the filmmakers were following a rather staid, unadventurous formula, the content of the film – racy and contemporary – shows just how wrong you can be. Short Tales of the Hijab restores individuality to Muslim women’s lives, cuts through Islamophobic frameworks and shows Muslim women’s lives in all their complexity. There is lham Moussaid, a French self-declared ‘revolutionary’, whose political candidacy for the New Anti-Capitalist party was denounced by the feminist organisation, Neither Whores Nor Submissive. Belgian-Moroccan Farida Aarrass, a stalwart of the struggle for the rights of the sans papiers and the homeless, is shown in the film struggling against anti-terror laws as she strives to prevent the extradition of her brother Ali Aarrass to Morocco. And outlined in broad strokes – her absence marked by an empty rocking swing in the German playground where she first confronted a neo-Nazi sympathiser who abused her as a terrorist and ‘Islamist whore’ – is the story of the Egyptian pharmacist Marwa el-Sherbini. She was brutally murdered in a Dresden courtroom in April 2009 by that same neo-Nazi.

This is a must-see film – and one full of surprises.

Related links

View a trailer and teaser for Short Tales of the Hijab at Red Rag Productions

Read an article by Naima Bouteldja on the making of the film: ‘Documentary’s raison d’être

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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