In Veiled Voices we meet 3 women leaders from the northern Middle East. Each woman has a story that gives us a little bit of truth and reality behind a few big stereotypes and misconceptions.
I’m in two minds about this film. Part of me was a bit disappointed because of the Reality TV feel of the film, I’d hoped it would be a bit more documentary, with a bit more focus. I kept arguing with myself about whether or not I liked it, but in the end I enjoyed getting to know them. I was excited to see these pioneering women, living the liberty Islam accords them even in less than accommodating environments.
With that said, I think for most audiences the Reality TV feel is one of the genius parts of the film. For Muslim women it’s a chance to get to know some great role models on a personal level, perhaps see themselves in one or all of them. For non-muslims it’s a chance to see Muslim women in an environment and role that is not stereotypical.
I’ve spent a lot of time saying the same things to different people, that Muslim women are not the oppressed, voiceless, small minded stereotype that many believe we are. This movie invites people to look at Muslim women as the 3 dimensional human beings that we are and to see that our lives (even the lives of those in extraordinary roles) are no different than theirs.
First we met Ghina Hammoud from Lebanon. Ghina is a divorced mother and she talks a lot about her experience with the stigma surrounding divorce and divorced women in Lebanon and much of the middle east. What excited me about Ghina’s story was her speaking up about her experience with domestic violence. We need more women like Ghina to speak up, not only say but to show any sort of abuse is not ok and it is, indeed, ok and possible to leave. Mabrook. A standing ovation for Ghina and all other women who have taken the same courageous step.
Next we met Dr. Su’ad Saleh from Egypt, who I absolutely fell in love with! She reminded me of my late grandfather, an influential Maori chief. Wise, respected and skilled in her craft, she felt like someone I would confide in and whose advice I could trust. She showed the audience a respectable and influential female leader in the Muslim world. There was also a glimpse into the relationship between Dr Saleh and her late husband. The way her eyes lit up and her demeanor softened when she spoke of him was adorable and showed us the essence of how an Islamic marriage should be. This contrasted with the experience of Sr. Ghina whose marriage was an example of how an Islamic marriage is not meant to be.
Finally we met Huda al-Habash from Syria. Huda is the only one of the 3 to have state support in her role as leader and religious teacher. We heard in his own eloquent words how her husband supports her to the extent necessary for her to continue her work. This story was touching, it showed the respect this Muslim man had for his wife. He spoke of his admiration for her and the importance he places on her work for the sake of Allah. He spoke highly of her in every aspect, in her role as teacher, wife, mother. That was the highlight in this story. Yet another way this film allowed us to see another side of the Islamic family, a side that very few -if any- media on Muslims have been able to show.
Each woman’s story showed us another side of the Islamic family and broke apart another stereotype about Muslim women and, importantly, the men in their lives.
As mentioned, I was left feeling the film needed a bit more focus, however I was also left feeling like this was a big step in the right direction. I’m excited to be able to view and write about a film that goes a long way in the right direction and tells the stories that are very rarely heard, the stories the mainstream media likes to look past. This film gave another much needed platform to Muslim women who are trying to make their voices heard for the greater good.