Ulema Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage
Court’s Hijab Ban Ruling Sparks Fears over Muslim Girls’ Schooling
Have Honoured Position In Islam: Said Aqil
of Muslimat NU should become smart women: Nahdlatul Ulema Chairman
Scientific Data, Medical Evidence to Justify Female Circumcision
Saudi Arabia Hates Muslim Women In The US Congress
Must Stand Up For Imprisoned Saudi Women
Nadine Labaki on her Oscar nomination
by New Age Islam News Bureau
Detainees 'Being Sexually Assaulted and Flogged' In Secret Saudi Prisons
rights activists in Saudi Arabia have been sexually assaulted, tortured with
electric shocks and flogged so hard they cannot stand, Amnesty has reported, as
British MPs ratcheted up pressure on Riyadh to grant them access to the
least 10 rights defenders have been tortured, including being made to kiss each
other while interrogators watched, Amnesty said in a report released on Friday.
woman activist was wrongly told by an interrogator that her family members had
died, a lie she was made to believe for an entire month. Others held in the
secret prisons were tortured with electric shocks, flogged so hard they could
not stand, or waterboarded, the human rights group said.
the women, who have all been held since a wave of arrests in May, are prominent
rights activists such as Loujain al-Hathloul and Aziza al-Youssef, who
campaigned for women’s right to drive and against the Kingdom’s oppressive male
guardianship system which controls its female citizens. None has been
officially charged or referred to trial, and most have no legal representation.
alarming reports come as a group of cross-party British MPs and international
lawyers gave Saudi Arabia until the end of the month to grant them access to
group, which has formed a detainee review panel, has sent an official request
to the Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz, to
obtain first-hand testimony from 10 women who are being held in a number of
jails in the country.
said if there was no positive response by 29 January a report detailing all the
allegations of mistreatment gathered by rights groups including Amnesty would
be published soon afterwards.
Saudi government has repeatedly denied the claims of mistreatment of the
are extremely concerned about the wellbeing of these activists, who have been
in arbitrary detention for around nine months simply for standing up for human
rights,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director,
said on Friday. “The Saudi Arabian
authorities have repeatedly proven themselves unwilling to effectively protect
detainees from torture, or to carry out impartial investigations into claims of
torture in custody. That is why we are calling on Saudi Arabia to give
independent monitoring bodies immediate and unfettered access to the detained
said the fresh testimonies followed ones they gathered in November that
detailed how several activists, including a number of women, had been
repeatedly tortured by electric shocks and flogging, leaving some unable to
walk or stand.
group urged the UK government to call for the release of the women, saying that
despite hailing “reforms” in Saudi Arabia for much of the first part of 2018,
it had done little for the plight of the jailed activists.
in the UK, members of the cross-party group – including the Conservative MP
Crispin Blunt, former chair of the foreign affairs select committee; Liberal
Democrat MP Layla Moran; and Paul Williams, the Labour member of the health and
social care committee – warned they would push ahead with publishing the report
if their requests were ignored.
stressed that they were prepared to keep an open mind and listen to the Saudi
government’s case on the issue but it was imperative they be allowed to carry
out their inquiries in Saudi Arabia.
pressure comes as Riyadh reels from the catastrophic fall out of the murder and
dismemberment of Saudi journalist and regime critic Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi
officials at their consulate in Istanbul.
Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) has faced mounting
accusations that he ordered or at least oversaw the killing. The brutal murder
also brought to light dozens of other cases of abductions of regime opponents,
as well as instances of torture and mistreatment in jail.
Arabia’s top prosecutor has ruled out MBS’s involvement and blamed specific
intelligence officials who apparently went “rogue”.
Thursday, Reuters revealed that Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special
rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, would travel to
Turkey next week to head an independent international inquiry into Khashoggi's
that day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it was time for an
international investigation and that President Tayyip Erdogan had ordered
preparations to be made.
Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulema, the country's largest Islamic
organization, has called on Muslims to play an active role in helping to
prevent child marriage in Indonesia.
child marriage is a mighty important thing to do, to avoid the negative impacts
on women and children," Siradj said, as quoted in a statement by the Rumah
Kita Bersama Foundation.
a meeting with members of the foundation at Nahdlatul Ulema's headquarters in
Central Jakarta on Monday, Siradj also offered to hold a focus group discussion
with NU's education body to build a common understanding on the importance of
preventing child marriage and increasing the organization's role in ongoing
Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institute for policy advocacy
established in 2010. Its work focuses on fighting for the rights of
both religious and nonreligious organizations is considered a viable way to
help end child marriage, especially in rural communities where it is still
practiced and considered part of tradition.
ranks 77th among countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage,
with around one in nine girls married before they turn 18.
prevalence of this practice in the archipelago affects approximately 375 girls
every day, according to data published by the United Nations Children's Fund
the legal age of marriage being 21 in the country, there have been exemptions
allowing girls as young as 16 to wed with parental consent.
December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government must change this
minimum age requirement.
court declared that the 1974 Marriage Law discriminated against girls and
diverged with rules on child protection, and subsequently gave lawmakers three
years to decide what the new minimum age should be.
many cases show that girls enter into religious marriages through nikah siri,
which literally means "secret wedding," that are not registered with
the government. The underreported nature of child marriages means that
grassroots-level efforts are key, and influential organizations such as
Nahdlatul Ulema could therefore play a crucial role.
child marriage is an urgent matter for us to reduce divorce rates and for
families to thrive," Siradj said.
A ruling by Kenyan’s top court that schools can ban the hijab could lead to
Muslim girls — already at risk from practices such as female genital mutilation
(FGM) and child marriage — dropping out of school, campaigners warned on
Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that every school had the right to determine
its own dress code, overturning a 2016 judgment allowing Muslim students to
wear the hijab in non-Muslim schools, and directed the government to frame
rights groups fear some schools will opt to impose the ban, which pertains to
both the hijab and the white trousers often worn by Muslim schoolgirls under
believe there is a large sense of tolerance in most schools, both public and
private, in Kenya. But there is a possibility that some schools will enforce a
ban,” said Demas Kiprono, campaigns manager at Amnesty International in Kenya.
this happens, it may affect schooling for Muslim girls. Religious dress is an
important issue for some Muslim communities, so the ban may lead to families
taking their daughters out of school, or girls may themselves not feel
make up about 10 percent of Kenya’s 44 million people, while Christians account
for almost 85 percent of the population, according to the latest census data
say Kenyan girls, including those from Muslim communities, already face
multiple barriers to completing their education.
practices such as FGM and child marriage often force adolescent girls to drop
out of school, they said, and schools banning hijabs could lead to higher
is a missed opportunity by the Supreme Court to have set a landmark judgment on
women’s right to privacy and to choose what she wants to wear,” said Agnes
Odhiambo, senior women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch in Kenya.
schools decide to take up the ban, the government must monitor this to ensure
it does not discriminate against Muslim girls. This ruling does not promote
integration, peace and tolerance in our schools and communities.”
(ANTARA News) - Women have honored position in the Islamic perspective, the
General Chairman of the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulema (NU), Said Aqil
statement was conveyed during commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of Muslimat
NU at the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) sports complex Central Jakarta, here on
Quran enshrines women in Surah An-Nisaa. An-Nisaa means women. There is no such
Surah in the Quran Ar-Rijal (Men)," he said.
the history of the Islamic struggle, women also made decisive moments. In fact,
the first person who defended Islam was a woman named Sumayyah.
was killed by Abu Jahal, after that her husband Yasir," he said.
also told a story about Umar bin al-Khattab, the second caliph of the Muslims,
who remained silent when his wife scolded him.
wisdom of those stories is the primacy of women who must be guarded by anyone.
is also based on the words of the Prophet Muhammad.
respect your wife. The Prophet said, a good husband is a husband who loves his
wife," he said.
(ANTARA News) - One of the women`s wings of the country`s largest Muslim
organization, Nahdlatul Ulema (NU), Muslimat NU, should become an organization
of smart women who become teachers for their families.
intelligence of women in the family is very important especially to transmit
the seeds of Islam that is Rahmatan lil-alamin (a mercy to all creation),"
the General Chairman of the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulema (NU), Said
Aqil Siroj, said here on Sunday.
lil-alamin attached to the values of moderation and tolerance.
those values must be done by smart and educated people. Muslimat NU must be
smart," Said Aqil Siroj remarked.
a strong understanding of the value of moderate Islam, women can fortify their
families from the threat of radicalism under the guise of religion.
should take care of their families. Don`t be provoked by terrorist in the name
of religion," he emphasized.
the value of tolerant Islam is mutual respect between those who are different
in terms of beliefs or ethnic groups.
us take care of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, the state
ideology of Pancasila, and national character," he stated.
Ulema (NU), Muslimat NU, has an important role in strengthening ahlus sunnah
wal jama`ah (Aswaja), a moderate theology in Islam, Chairperson of the
Organizing Committee of the 73rd anniversary of Muslimat NU Yenny Wahid earlier
the first school for families, Muslimat, Muslim women, become educators who should
teach their children based on the values of Islam that are tolerant, moderate,
the result will be Islam that is Rahmatan lil-alamin (a mercy to all creation).
Wahid remarked that strengthening Aswaja is strengthening the nation and even
refer to the letter titled, ‘There’s no basis for banning female circumcision’
written by Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar and Nur Saadah Khair.
is shocking that they and Wafiq, the International Women’s Alliance for Family
Institution and Quality Education, are defending female genital cutting. It is
alarming that as medical professionals, rather than depending on science, they
place religious practices at the centre of their argument.
their demand for an objective analysis of female genital cutting (FGC) backed
by reliable and validated data, they have conveniently ignored the fact that
there is no scientific data or medical evidence whatsoever which justifies the
need or benefits for performing this procedure.
recently, it is a practice that barely raised an eyebrow even among the media,
human rights and women’s rights activists in the country. It is a fact for many
Muslims in Malaysia that FGC, also euphemistically termed as female
circumcision, is routinely carried out on infants and girls.
this procedure is being done. But just because everybody does it, does not make
euphemistic term of female circumcision and the above response has been used
repeatedly to make it sound better and justify the practice.
of the common responses to the practice of female genital cutting in Malaysia
is that we don’t do it the way it is done in Africa. So, it is acceptable to do
us be clear, any harmful procedure which is carried out on the female genitalia
for non-medical purposes, whether minor or major, is female genital mutilation.
This is also known as female genital cutting.
circumcision is female genital cutting.
World Health Organization (WHO) has four classifications for FGC:
1 is clitoridectomy – partial or total removal of the clitoris and, in very
rare cases, only the prepuce or clitoral hood (the fold of skin surrounding the
2 is excision: partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora,
with or without excision of the labia majora or “the lips” which surround the
3 is infibulation: narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a
covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the inner, or
outer, labia, with or without removal of the clitoris.
4 includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical
purposes. This includes the procedure of pricking, piercing, incising, scraping
and cauterising the genital area.
has Type 1, 2 and 4. We do not have Type 3 which is the practice of
infibulation, a form of FGM which has traumatised, scarred and damaged the
lives of thousands of girls and women in Africa and some parts of Asia.
also concluded that in comparison to the clear, demonstrable benefits for male
circumcision ranging from improved hygiene and prevention of sexually
transmitted diseases, there are absolutely no medical benefits from female
following might sound familiar:
know, the blade used in those old Gillette shavers which you can buy at the convenience
store? The blade is lightly run across the clitoris and the labia”
a pinprick aja. A hole was made into the clitoral hood.”
small bit of the labia or the clitoral hood was sliced off.”
remove a centimetre of the clitoris.”
first and last quotes were from a traditional practitioner, while the rest are
some of the common descriptions given by women and girls who have been
subjected to the procedure which was described to them by the mothers. They are
some of the usual options offered by private hospitals and clinics. The fees
range from RM 50 to RM 400.
on descriptions of the procedure as implemented around the country, three out
of the four forms of female genital cutting are practised in Malaysia.
ministry of health circular actually prohibits the practice of female
circumcision in all public health facilities. Rather than medicalising and
regulating the practice, MOH should extend that prohibition to all healthcare
facilities, private and public.
all of this, mothers continue to insist on having their infant daughters’
genitals cut. Why?
University of Malaya study on the status of female circumcision in Malaysia
cited by Rafidah Hanim and Nur Saadah indicated the following findings:
than 90% of Malay Muslim female respondents were circumcised.
of the non-Malay female respondents were circumcised.
than 93% of women also circumcised their daughters.
primary reasons for female circumcision were cited as it being a religious
obligation, personal hygiene, cultural practice and to control the girl’s
2006, Al Azhar University declared female circumcision as un-Islamic.
then several Muslim majority countries have banned the practice including Egypt
and Indonesia (despite the ban, the cutting of girls persists in many rural
areas). In 2012, the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee adopted a
resolution which declared female genital cutting to be a harmful practice and a
serious threat to the psychological, sexual and reproductive health of women
National Fatwa Council in 2009 made the practice obligatory (wajib) for girls
(http://e-smaf.islam.gov.my/e-smaf/fatwa/fatwa/find/pr/15253). Yet, their
rationale couldn’t even find the necessary references in the Quran and had to
utilise arguments from a different mazhab (Maliki).
comparison, slavery is not only mentioned in the Quran, but it is also provided
for as an accepted practice in certain circumstances. Yet, we don’t accept or
practice slavery today. We condemn it. Last I checked, none of the Muslims I
know owned any slaves.
to what is being claimed, female circumcision isn’t required under Islam. There
are no medical benefits from the procedure. There is also no evidence that
female circumcision does anything to control sexual desire (unless because of
the circumcision, the sex act is so traumatic that it would be too painful or
there is no medical benefit, no religious obligation, or any benefit whatsoever
to performing female circumcision, then why do it?
than medicalising the practice, we should instead be prohibiting and
criminalising the act of female circumcision to protect our infant daughters
and girls from harm. No ifs, buts or caveats.
Arabia Declares War on America's Muslim Congresswomen," a title ran in
Foreign Policy magazine recently, where we find out: "Gulf Arab monarchies
are using racism, bigotry, and fake news to denounce Washington's newest
history-making politicians." This is serious business.
two Muslim women at the centre of attention of the Saudi propaganda machinery
are Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib, the newly elected US representative for
Michigan's 13th congressional district, and Somali American Ilhan Omar, newly
elected US representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district.
many racist conservatives in the United States were upset with the election of
two Muslim women to the US Congress, and their run-of-the-mill xenophobia was
expected. But the vitriol Saudi-affiliated media outlets and commentators
spewed was indeed something new.
why would the Saudis, or any other tyranny in the Arab and Muslim world whose
very existence is dependent on the benevolent generosity of the US military,
pick up a fight with these two newly elected members of the US Congress?
the Saudis "the Custodians of the Two Noble Sanctuaries", as they
call and thus congratulate themselves? Aren't they supposed to be protectors
and supporters of all Muslims around the world?
to the FP, "academics, media outlets, and commentators close to Persian
Gulf governments have repeatedly accused Omar, Rashida Tlaib … and Abdul
El-Sayed (who made a failed bid to become governor of Michigan) of being secret
members of the Muslim Brotherhood who are hostile to the governments of Saudi
Arabia and the UAE."
there you have it, the catchword: the Muslim Brotherhood.
bugbear of the Muslim Brotherhood
rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US as a scary monster predates the brief
fortune of leading member and deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. In the
Arab world, however, it was in the aftermath of the Arab Spring that the ruling
regimes of Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE considered it their
number one enemy. Because of Hamas (considered a branch of the organisation),
Israel, too, joined these Arab states in their shared fear and loathing of
political Islam. Through a deliberate and sanctioned ignorance, these
governments are reducing the entire spectrum of resistance to their tyrannies
to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Arabia and its allies, the UAE and Egypt in particular, have launched a vicious
and indeed deadly campaign against the organisation. But this is not why they
have come after the two US Congresswomen.
article published on the MinnPost explains: "Saudi loyalists aren't wrong
that Omar is a persistent critic of the Saudi regime. Recently, she's condemned the kingdom over
two crises that are drawing international scrutiny to the secretive regime: the
war in Yemen, and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
for their outspokenness and open criticism, Omar and Tlaib are perceived as
what Professor Mahmoud Mamdani of Columbia University calls "bad
Muslims" in his remarkable study and subsequent book. By contrast, good
Muslims - the ones Saudi Arabia et al like - are those silently watching it
massacre Yemenis and cut Khashoggi to pieces while rushing to make ticket
reservations for their Hajj pilgrimage.
these vicious attacks against these young Muslim lawmakers in the new US
Congress, Professor Mohammad H Fadel of the University of Toronto pointed out a
crucial issue: "The shocking willingness to attack Muslim-Americans and
Arab-Americans and embrace American Islamophobia reveal a deeper and more depressing
state of affairs between the Arab world and its expatriates."
why should Saudis and their allies be afraid of Muslim Americans? Well, they
fear the Khashoggi effect - too many Muslims exposing and criticising tyranny.
America could be beautiful
the Saudis and their allies are scared witless of just two Muslim women, there
are strong indications that more will be joining Congress in the coming years.
116th Congress, of which Omar and Tlaib are now members, is the most diverse in
US history, with a record number of Latinos, African Americans, and Asian
Americans and the first Muslim and Native American women to serve.
that, the 115th Congress, and before it, the 114th, were also considered most
diverse in US history.
diversity of political representation in the US is a clear trend and Muslim
Americans are very much part of it. Currently, there are some 3.4 million
Muslims living in the US (just over one percent of the US population), but the
young generation among them is emerging as exceptionally engaged in the public
and political arenas.
majority of Muslim Americans (76 percent) are first or second-generation
immigrants, many of them (or their parents) hail from lands that suffer under
despotic rulers. The Muslim American youth, being politically active at home,
is also very much vocal about the tyranny in their homelands (just like Omar
and Tlaib are, and just like Khashoggi attempted to be), readily exposing the
deep corruption and the evil banalities of the regimes that rule them.
this is what is scaring, not just the Saudi elites, but also the Egyptian, the
Emirati, the Iranian, etc regimes in the Arab and Muslim worlds which detest
freedom of expression. They would very much like these outspoken Muslim
Americans back home where they can arrest, jail, torture, and murder them in
living in the US are emerging as a peculiar vintage. Their small number is not
a significant portion of the population but their cumulative resistance to the
diabolical Islamophobia that is coming their way in their adopted country is
making them stronger citizens of a fragile democracy.
historic opportunity has turned Muslims living in the US (but also in Canada,
Europe, and Australia), where they face daily racist xenophobia, stronger
agents in their respective histories, and as such, they are serious threats to
the countries of their origins and the pathetic tyrants ruling them.
not just Saudi Arabia, but equally Iran, Egypt, Turkey, or Pakistan have lost
their exclusive claims on what it means to be a Muslim. Muslims around the
globe who are not living under tyranny have equal, if not larger, claims on
their faith. The theological and political implications of these small
demographic changes are enormous. In this sense, the hatred of the Saudis
towards two Muslim American congresswomen is just the tip of an iceberg.
is not accidental that the selfsame Muslim women that the Saudis and their
allies hate are targeted by the propaganda machinery of major Zionist outlets,
which defame and demonise them because they take principled positions on
Israel, criticising its policies and supporting the Boycott, Divestment
Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Saudi-Zionist alliance now runs deeply into the heart of the Arab and Muslim
world. Ruling regimes from Saudi Arabia to Chad are putting all their eggs in
the Zionist basket, hoping this would ensure their survival. Bad move. The
power of the Zionists over the US politics is seriously challenged, and Muslims
are part of a rising democratic will that will include the democratic
aspirations of Muslim nations in their agendas.
addition to the Zionist-instigated Islamophobia in Europe, Australia and North
America, Muslims on these continents face another abusive danger: Racist
Islamophobes abusing legitimate criticism of Arab and Muslim states in their
warmongering schemes. The crucial question of women's rights is particularly
vulnerable to this abuse and is often incorporated in the aggressive
demonisation of not just the ruling regimes (who are responsible for the
violations of these rights) but the entirety of Muslim and Arab cultures.
Islamophobia from one side, bourgeois feminism at the service of war machines
on the other, and the Saudi-Zionist alliance aiming to silence and kill voices
of Muslim dissent, Muslim living in the US and elsewhere have their work cut
out for them.
is no underestimating the institutional and propaganda power of these nefarious
forces. One must celebrate the election of two Muslim women to the US Congress,
but one should not be too sanguine about their overnight success either. That
the Islamophobes, xenophobes, the Saudis and their regional allies are alarmed
is a good sign, but the battles ahead are mighty and mean. After all, for every
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib in the US Congress there is a platoon of Nancy
Pelosis and Chuck Schumers in the back pockets of regressive, Islamophobic and
AL-FASSI is one of Saudi Arabia’s most eminent and respected scholars. A professor
at King Saud University in Riyadh for more than a quarter century, she has
authored two seminal books on women’s history in Saudi Arabia and numerous
journal articles. She has won international honors, including induction into
France’s academic honor society. For more than a decade, she has also
peacefully advocated for improvements in Saudi women’s rights, including the
right to vote in local elections and the right to drive. For that, since last
June she has been imprisoned.
Fassi is one of more than a dozen female activists who have been arrested in a
senseless and unconscionable campaign of repression launched by Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman. The detentions began just as the regime finally granted
women driving rights last June and continued through the summer. At least nine
women are still in prison; many were held in solitary confinement for prolonged
periods, and some were brutally tortured. All have been subjected to vicious
campaigns of defamation in pro-government media. None has yet been convicted of
to the Saudi Twitter account Prisoners of Conscience, Ms. Fassi was one of
three female prisoners who recently were transferred to common cells in al-Hair
prison, south of Riyadh, after being held for long periods in solitary
confinement. Little else is known about her case or her physical condition.
Late last year, multiple human rights organizations and news organizations,
including The Post, reported that several other women held in solitary
confinement had been tortured. They were subjected to beatings, waterboarding,
electric shocks and sexual abuse. A top aide to Mohammed bin Salman, Saud
al-Qahtani, watched the abuse of one of the women, Loujain al-Hathloul, while
threatening her with rape and murder, according to Ms. Hathloul’s family.
outrageous behavior has attracted too little international attention and
censure. After Canada spoke up for detained activist Samar Badawi and Nassima
al-Sadah last August, the Saudi government expelled the Canadian ambassador and
withdrew its own from Ottawa. Yet rather than support the Saudi women or
Canada, the Trump administration responded by urging the two governments to
settle their differences.
recently, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had raised the case of the
imprisoned women during meetings in Riyadh this month. Yet none have been
released; having been excused by President Trump for the murder of Jamal
Khashoggi, Mohammed bin Salman understands that this U.S. administration will
not hold him accountable for even egregious abuses of human rights.
week, more than 200 scholars from across the world signed a letter to the Saudi
government calling for the release of Ms. Fassi, as well as the other women
activists. Now it is time for Congress to get involved. Legislators should seek
sanctions against those involved in the detention and torture of the women
under the Global Magnitsky Act. They should condition further economic and
military cooperation with the regime on their release. No regime that imprisons
and tortures peaceful advocates for women’s rights should be treated as an ally
by the United States.
Labaki is standing taller than usual. The Lebanese director, a source of
national pride, became the first female artist in the Arab world to be
nominated for an Academy Award.
foreign language nomination for ‘Capernaum’ makes her one of the only female
directors to compete at this year’s Oscars, which feature another all-male
line-up in the best director category.
hope I will be representing women filmmakers the best way possible,” Labaki
said. “I wish there were a lot more women filmmakers this year represented,
nominated in the Oscars. But I am sure in a few years we won’t be having this
is Labaki’s third feature film — the latest achievement in a successful career
the confident and charismatic Labaki has carved for herself in Lebanon and the
her home country, the 44-year-old mother of two is a unifying figure in a
fractured political and religious scene and in an industry that unlike in the
West, is dominated by women. With her trademark smoky eyes and black hair,
Labaki is also an actress who made a name for herself first as a director of
videos for top Arab pop music stars.
the masterful neo-realist drama about a 12-year-old Syrian refugee boy and a
Kenyan toddler who live parentless on the streets of Beirut received a
15-minute standing ovation in the Cannes Film festival and won the Grand Jury’s
United Nations called it “inspiring” and Oprah Winfrey gave it a shout out on
Twitter. Lebanon’s Foreign Minister said ‘Capernaum’ “was a Lebanese touch” on
the international movie industry.
faces against stiff competition from ‘Roma,’ an awards season favourite that
has four Oscar nominations including best picture.
nomination is the second in the foreign film category for Lebanon in as many
years — reflecting the small country’s rising start in a region brimming with
as much talent as it is with political turmoil.
called the making of the movie a life-changing journey that started four years
ago. Its theme resonates beyond regional politics, she said.
can’t help but acknowledge that there is a certain fear of refugees in general
around the world and there are these walls we are building, and this fear that
keeps growing. [When] you see this kid with so much potential and so much wit
and smart and heart and so much resilience and strength, you can’t help but
break all the cliches that you might have in your head,” she said.
is led by a non-professional cast: a young Syrian boy named Zain, a Kenyan
toddler girl, Yonas, who plays the role of a boy. In the film, Zain sues his
parents after they fail to protect his little sister against child marriage and
for continuing to have children they are unable to care for.
humanises the real struggle of people mentioned in the news only fuelling fear
of strangers, Labaki said.
film is named after a biblical village cursed by Jesus and has come to be
synonymous with chaos.
her small country struggle with a growing number of refugees, Labaki said she
felt it was her “duty” to speak out against the chaos and governments failing
to deal with it. Lebanon is host to the largest number of Syrian refugees per
capita in the region, an issue that has fanned political tension and a social
backlash against them
the cast, ‘Capernaum’ offered a platform to tell their real story.
their story is very painful,” Labaki said. “They had a hard struggle in their
lives sometimes to even prove they exist. All of a sudden, they exist — not
only in a film but they exist on such a big level. And with such a huge
exposure and their voice is resonating so much louder because of that exposure
they are getting.”
Syrian refugee has now found a home in Norway. The Kenyan toddler returned
home. Labaki is making a documentary on the life of the actors after the film.
movies have demonstrated wit and humour in tackling Lebanon’s complex politics,
winning her local and international acclaim. In ‘Caramel’, which was a
runner-up in 2006 for nomination in foreign film category, she dug into the
lives of ordinary women from different religious backgrounds as they struggled
with tradition, their own sexuality and aging. Her 2011 film ‘Where Do We Go
Now?’ is a tale of a small village’s brush with religious tension where women
bond to stop local men from fighting.
said making movies in the Arab world, where fundraising remains one of the main
challenges, is a “battlefield...It is as difficult for a man as it is for a
have never really felt the difficulty of my job as a woman or the difficulty to
achieve anything because I am woman. Maybe because I have never felt it, [so] I
never reflected it.
never felt any doubt from anyone regarding what I can do as a woman,” she said.
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