Radical Muslim Groups

Fiza focuses on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region, which is divided by a ''line of control.'' The conflict started in 1947 after the partition of the Indian subcontinent into two independent states: India and Pakistan. The conflict further escalated in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1989, and since then, the activities of several Muslim radical groups have increased. These groups 2 try to justify their fight as jihad—"Holy War''—in the name of Allah. The male protagonist Amaan is shown joining such a group. At the end of the film, he even takes part in the attempted assassination of a Hindu politician. The depiction of the Indian Muslim groups suggests that these groups are fighting for mere worldly, political goals and not for religious, ideological aims. Neither do we see any religious teachers preaching to the masses.

The fundamentalism of the Egyptian Islamists is of another kind (J. Clark 2004). The Egyptian groups like the Jama'at al-Islamiyya and the Islamic Jihad want to violently overthrow the present government of President Mubarak, whom they see as corrupt, impious, and influenced by the capitalist West. Their aim is to replace his government with an Islamic state. The Islamists glorify the armed struggle to achieve the modern "'caliphate'' even if it involves using terrorism. The groups of Shaikh Abd al-Aziz and his student Shaikh Khalid are depicted as totalitarian because they reject everything that does not fit in with their interpretation of Islam. They have huge circles of adherents who meet in the local mosques. Sometimes, big gatherings take place in a mosque outside Cairo. Both shaikhs preach against the West, with its bad influences like ""pornography, alcohol and capitalism." Mohammed is further told to eradicate evils and errors in Egyptian society. Here a Quranic verse (Sura 3, Verse 110) is hinted at, saying that every individual has the right, or rather the duty, to command goodness and to remove vices wherever he finds them (amr bil maruf wa-nahy 'an al-munkar). Mohammed tries to live this Quranic principle, even when it brings him into conflict with his mother. At the beginning of the film, Mohammed disap proves of the fact that his mother is working for a rich Lebanese family, but he would not dare to ask his mother to give up this job. The rich Lebanese family has adopted many things from the "Western" lifestyle: they eat fast food, drink alcohol, and wear blue jeans. Mohammed considers this to be inappropriate for Arab/Muslim families. But the most disturbing thing in Mohammed's eyes is that Fatma's employer owns a second flat in which he meets several women. He asks Fatma to clean this flat regularly, but his ulterior motive is to start a sexual relationship with her. Fatma plainly rejects this, and gives up her job. Although she clearly does not approve of her employers' lifestyle, she asks Mohammed: "How can we judge them?" Mohammed does not want to answer this, but later, when he seems to be brainwashed by the Islamists, he wants to impose his beliefs by force on everyone, even on his mother.

In spite of these differences between the two films, both portray young men as ready to die or even kill for the Islamic cause, using violence and terrorism. Further, both films suggest that the repressive system of society is to be blamed: children, as well as women, are victims of (male) violence of different kinds. There are few positive male figures that can guide young men in the right direction. This is the reason why it is easy for Islamist groups to exert an enormous influence on young people.

stronc mothers — absent fathers

The families portrayed in these two films suffer from a loss of their father. Father Ikramullah died several years earlier, and his daughter Fiza is full of bitterness as a result. She tells her mother: ''He died—and he left us here to die behind him.'' It becomes clear that she considers her family incomplete and suffers from the absence of a strong father figure.

Mohammed's father is still alive yet has left the family for a younger woman. Although Mohammed sees his father regularly, he feels left alone: his father only offers superficial comments and is not prepared to answer his son's questions concerning life, his future, or even sexuality. Thus, Mohammed is left without any male guidance or male role model. This is the reason why the group around Shaikh Khalid seems to be so attractive to young men: the shaikh has a soft and gentle voice and seems to know everything about life. He offers guidance to all young men who feel lost. The inner circle of the group consists of men, whereas women (daughters and wives) are only entitled to be married to followers of the group and to give birth to the next generation of followers. They further have to share the religious interpretations of their husbands.

Both films show that there is an enormous pressure on women and children. Because of the worldwide economic crisis, a growing number of women and young people have to work in order to sustain their families. Al-Abwab depicts the serious problem of unemployment in Egyptian societies and how it creates trouble among family members. In both films, the mothers and children work and thus carry the burden of the whole family on their shoulders. At the same time, everyday life is full of repression: for example, there is a lot of military drill at school. The classes consist of 50 pupils or more, and only those who pay for additional lessons will pass the examinations. There is no place for creativity, individual support, or intellectual freedom in the school system. On the contrary, children have to put up with punishment and humiliation from their teachers, as well as from their classmates. As a consequence, Mohammed will not find any support or understanding of his problems. Although his classmates are the same age and have the same questions about sexuality, nobody will help him.


Although the majority of Indian films are love stories, the depiction of sexuality on screen is not common, since there is strict censorship. Even kissing sequences are only hinted at. Still, several other possibilities by which sexuality is conveyed in Indian films do exist (Gokulsing and Dissanayake, 78; Garga, 196): for example, dancing sequences and even ''wet sari scenes.'' In these scenes, the female body is exposed on screen, but it remains a visual object of male desire. Only recent films like Jism (Body, Amit Saxena, India, 2003, Hindi) show self-determined female sexuality on the Indian screen, and this film was controversial.

In the past, in the majority of Indian films, women were portrayed as modest and chaste, and only ''reacting'' to male desires. The image of women has recently changed toward a more active role, as women are no longer submitting to men. In the 1970s, a new kind of film came to the screen portraying sexual violence against women. Insaaf ka tarazu (The Scales of Justice, B. R. Chopra, India, 1980, Hindi) and Zakhmi Aurat (Injured Woman, Avtar Bhogal, India, 1988, Hindi), among others, came to be known as ''rape films'' (Garga, 199; Rajadhyaksha and Willemen, 446)/ since their main motif was sexual humiliation and female revenge for male violence. Of course, rape itself was only hinted at. These films can clearly be seen in a context of feminist activities in India following some terrible incidents of rape (Gokulsing and Dissinayake, 106). The intention of these films was to stress that women were no longer helpless victims of male violence.

Although public attention was then drawn to the fate of female victims of sexual violence, Bollywood films continue to imply that female life in India is not free of sexual violence even in the 2000s. For example, when Fiza applies for a job, she is sexually harassed. The boss of the company tells her: ''You are an attractive girl. Let me meet you in the evening. Dinner. I'll make you very, very happy.'' Thus, it is clearly underlined that some men still consider women to be helpless objects. But Fiza does not consider herself to be a victim. She shouts at him, telling him to keep his thoughts to himself, and even throws a pail of water in his face.

Indeed, in India there has been an increase in the public awareness of both the sexual abuse of women and child sexual abuse. For example, Grace Poore released her documentary The Children We Sacrifice in 2000,4 a film which was shot in India, Sri Lanka, Canada, and the U.S., showing ''the universal crime of incestuous child abuse through the prism of South Asia.'' This film definitely challenges the image of a safe and happy childhood and stresses the betrayal of children which happens in numerous families.

The director of al-Abwab portrays children not only as victims of sexual violence, but also as perpetrators. Mohammed, for example, enacts sexual violence on two occasions. In one scene, he meets a girl of his own age who brings him some tea. She belongs to the group (and may be a relative) of Shaikh Khalid. She is completely veiled, wearing even a black veil and black gloves. Mohammed asks the girl for her name, but she seems to be very shy and does not answer his question. Then Mohammed asks the girl to take away the veil, but she refuses. After having asked her for the third time, Mohammed simply tears away the veil in front of her face. In the Islamic world, veiling of women is strongly connected with erotic and sexual desires. In the eyes of the Islamists, a veil is more than a piece of cloth: it is a symbol of a woman's virtue and honor. Thus, tearing away the veil is tantamount to taking away her honor. Thus, Mohammed's action can be interpreted as an act of violence. On the other hand, another interpretation seems to be possible: seeing a (''naked'') face may be considered something human. Whereas the other men of the Islamist group remain anonymous and without an identity, we get to know this girl's name: Samaa. She does not remain an anonymous veiled girl, but becomes a visible human being with a name. The subtle message thus might be: tear down the veils of Islamist Islam, and what you get is a soft (female?) Islam of the human kind.

The second time Mohammed becomes a perpetrator of sexual violence is when he sexually harasses his neighbor, Zeinab. Mohammed feels very much attracted to her, but he also feels contempt for her because of her lifestyle, her open-mindedness, and her sexual allure. At the beginning of the film, Mohammed believes Zeinab to be a nurse, but later he finds out that she is a prostitute who is supporting her unemployed husband. When Mohammed finds out that Zeinab is a prostitute, he tries to make her feel guilty because of her conduct. For example, he tells her about a woman who was murdered by her own husband because she had a love affair with another man. Zeinab, on the other hand, does not take Mohammed seriously. She tries to provoke him by sexual allusions or remarks concerning Mohammed's masculinity. Only when she learns that he is under the influence of the Islamists does she take him seriously; she is shocked and even begins to fear him. When Mohammed realizes that his mother is meeting his teacher, he tries to find out where Fatma is. He goes to Zeinab's flat, shouts at her, punches her, and starts to kiss and touch her. Zeinab does not offer any resistance, but does not further encourage him. It seems as if she is used to this situation from her "job" as a prostitute.

The problems of children who become victims of sexual violence, however, are also the main subject of several other Arabic films, such as Rih as-sadd5 (Man of Ashes, Nouri Bouzid, Tunisia, 1986, Arabic). The film tells the story of Hachemi, a young Tunisian woodcarver. On the eve of his arranged marriage, Hachemi is tormented by flashbacks from his youth. He and his best friend, Farfat, were both sexually abused by their employer, and Farfat has been defamed as a homosexual by people from their village.6 Hachemi feels guilty about the whole situation and considers himself to be inadequate for the role of husband. His father does not want to understand his problems and even beats him. Hachemi and Farfat try to get away from their problems and go to a brothel. There, some other men are joking about Farfat's "homosexuality" and "missing masculinity." In his anger, Farfat runs through the streets with a knife in his hand, searching for his childhood tormentor. When he finally finds him, he stabs his former employer to death. Rih as-sadd is an impressive film about several taboos in Tunisian society: homosexuality, child abuse, and prostitution (Shafik, 259).

It is important to see that most films do not blame religion/Islam for violence and sexual abuse, but rather the patriarchal systems of those societies. Violence and fanaticism are interpreted as the consequence of the exaggeration of masculinity.

0 0

Post a comment