Category: Television


 

To watch it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01qfqz5

Make Me a Muslim was a documentary following four girls  in the UK who had converted to Islam and their reasons for doing so. It’s presenter Shanna Bukhari (who was in the news a few years for having had received death threats following her annoucement of being involved in Ms Universe contest) posed the question “why would they give up their Western freedoms, the drinking, having fun to become Muslim?” (paraphrased).This opening line set the tone for the entire 1 hour programme.

I acknowledge some meaningful frames, quips and interactions may have been edited and/or scripted out to package it for terrestial viewing but despite that there were some telling undercurrents to the documentary that not even editing could have caused.  Professing to being Muslim herself Shanna seemed to have trouble grasping why these girls had converted.  One would think maybe she had issues with the discipline involved, such as prayer, fasting, not drinking as these prohibitions were quite strict and testing for most born Muslims, so for those who choose to become Muslim these things must be much harder to become accustomed to. Or of the harder struggles some of these girls may have had once they have converted.

But the focus of the programme was to do with none of that, it was to do with what is apparent and that is their clothing. This evolved even further and became a story about Shanna’s personal journey in reconnecting with her faith

The first girl – Safia, was a bubbly, excitable girl who was in the giddy first stages of conversion. Everything seemed new to her, she loved the sisters she came across at the mosque and felt like one of them. All over Twittersphere and Facebook there were quite a few comments about Sophia shown to be praying with nailpolish on and arms bare and sharing her pre-hijab photos. She is a newbie, its a steep learning curve – no need to shoot the girl down.

The other girl, who’s name escapes me – many apologies- had met her husband when she was a teenager as he used to hang about the school playground. He married her, secretly of course, as his family would never accept a white daughter-in-law. So a few years later, he was the good desi boy and abided by his parents wishes to go abroad to marry again (probably to a cousin or other family member). She wasn’t entirely happy with this, but had come around to it as she had made him promise not to have sex with his other wife. Her sister however resented the arrangement as she felt her sister was practically living the live of a single parent. This whole story had too many cultural hang ups that in order to address them would be a whole blog post on its own.

Inayah had trouble finding a partner as most of the boys family wouldnt accept her unless she was Pakistani. Some men she came across wanted a girlfriend not a wife. She’s better off without such people – lucky escape.

Alana converted after being introduced to Islam via her fiance. Shanna asked Alana for her opinion on her clothing – to which she replied it wasn’t halal. Including the boots (which personally I loved!).  This didnt go down to well with Shanna who then piped that her lifestyle and career in modelling was a result of being a modern British Muslim and nothing would change that.  I would say all of the girls in the documentary were modern if modern means to be able to drive a car, own a mobile phone, travel, have a job, own a house etc.

Is a career in modelling, where clothing to be displayed and paraded such as short skirts, tube tops,  cannot be modest according to Islamic principles, really be compatible with being a Muslim? Seemed like she knew what the answer was to that but didnt want to give it too much thought. And of course once you justify something to yourself its easy to carry on doing it, the very advice given to her by model/fashion designer Ayesha who was also a convert. However the irony of it all seemed to hit her when she attended a fashion party of Ayesha’s. She decided to reconnect with Islam and contacted Alana. The line of “want to hook up and go pray sometime?” made me cringe!

Overall the programme missed the opportunity of really exploring the reasons and effect conversion had on the lives of these 5 girls, it focused too much on on what they were (or weren’t) wearing.

The BBC have began a series following young people from different religious backgrounds in the search for a marriage partner. Last nights “Strictly Soulmates” episode followed 3 young Muslim guys and girls. My favourite were Dimpy, a 31 year old doctor by profession and Zubair a 23-odd year old who wanted to migrate back to Lahore, Pakistan and live life there doing charity work.

Zubair was a likeable chap – a bit goofy, but in an endearing way, confident and had some definite plans he wanted to follow through on. One was to migrate back to Pakistan where he spent his teenage years to start up a charity and he wanted his wife to aid him in this charity work. It was his desire to move away which detracted from his appeal, because other than that he seemed like a decent guy.

Dimpy seemed to be unsure of what she wanted – he must be a doctor was her only criteria. But in her search, rather than appeasing her preferences she was at cross-roads with the thoughts of what her father (who had passed away) would have wanted her to do. And she held onto that so strongly that when the realisation of its futility hit her, it hit her hard.

The programme provided insight into how Pakistani arranged marriages take place.  Anyone from Pakistani or Indian backgrounds will know even in these marriage processes there are many steps involved, all of which have their own politics and unwritten but understood rules to comply with. It touched briefly upon the options Muslims have when it comes to finding a suitable partner for marriage within the rules and norms of their cultural and religious expectations and norms.

One could argue the programme was more about how Pakistani’s do the marriage game – from the “auntie” matchmaker, to samosa parties at home with the prospective grooms mother rather than how Muslims in general do it (I wont go into Islamically how people argue it is “meant” to be done, as thats a whole other blog post in itself) having a variety of Muslim backgrounds would have made it much more interesting although the manner in which spouses are found in most Muslim cultures wouldn’t differ much.

It seemed like all 3 of them ha a long way to go before finding their Mr/Mrs Right. Wish them all the best in their search.

A recent documentary on Channel 4, part of the new season of True stories programme took us through the hidden world of the dancing boys of Afghanistan. These are boys, under the age of 18 who are kept for entertainment purposes, to dance and shimmy with the older men (often their “owners” or guests at a party) with sex also being a component of their role as dancing boys. Bacha baazi, as its referred to, is a common practice in Northern regions of Afghanistan (but slowly trickling to other cities and provinces) perpertuated by older men,  the one’s in the documentary varying between the ages of 30-60 (some being older), often with enough disposible income and wealth to lure boys from impoverished backgrounds in the hope of supporting and sustaining their families in exchange. For those who struggle with the looming poverty reigning over them, as with most of the population, such an offer is hard to resist. Some families sincerely believe their boys will be used purely for dancing purposes only and not be sexually exploited.

The documentary made the point several times of the inaccessibility of women to the Afghan men due to the strict nature of purdah in the country resulted in the substitution of boys who were readily available and within their vicinity, from street children to those working in tea houses and food stalls. The reference to women being inaccessible somehow implied that were women available for entertainment and sexual pleasuring (prostitution), these boys would be spared which is quite a poor explanation and reasoning behind the popularity of bacha baazi )despite the boys often being dressed in women’s clothing and ghunghru for their dances and needing to be attractive in appearance, slim and nimble – like nymphs)

The keeping of boys, openly flaunted and boasted as being toy boys, was not about sexuality. Sexuality played little a role in the desire of these older men (some married, some single) enjoying them, boasting about their dancing talent, and holding parties especially for their friends and peers to come and watch and often take their boy home for the night. Some confessed to becoming habituated to having boys for company during their days in the fighting against the Russians and some of the boys wanting sex themselves, others professed an attraction for them whilst some simply enjoyed the elevated status it brought having a boy under their wing, to exploit and swap with their peers. There was no mention of plying the boys with drugs to keep them addicted and therefore wanting to stay, but I suspect this may be also be a factor or a method used in keeping them from running away (aside from the threat of being killed and/or beaten)

Boys for this purpose remain this “charm” until they hit adulthood, which for the Afghan men would be around 18. After this, the boys are no longer desirable and left to go. And often the victims may become perpetrators of the same kind,  as one dancing boy shared his goal of having 20-30 dancing boys when he is able to afford it and hold parties for his friends to be entertained in the same manner as he had been entertaining his “masters” friends, despite stating in the beginning he had no choice in becoming like this or living this existence so had accepted it. An insight as to what these parties consist:

The orchestra started up with a curious, plaintive melody, the rhythm being taken up and stressed by the kettle drums, and four bachehs took up their positions on the carpet. The bachehs are young men specially trained to perform a particular set of dances. Barefoot, and dressed like women in long, brightly-coloured silk smocks reaching below their knees and narrow trousers fastened tightly round their ankles, their arms and hands sparkle with rings and bracelets. They wear their hair long, reaching below the shoulders, though the front part of the head is clean shaven. The nails of the hands and feet are painted red, the eyebrows are jet black and meet over the bridge of the nose. The dances consist of sensuous contortions of the body and a rhythmical pacing to and fro, with the hands and arms raised in a trembling movement. As the ballet proceeded the number of dancers increased, the circle grew in size, the music waxed shriller and shriller and the eyes of the native onlookers shone with admiration, while the bachehs intoned a piercing melody in time with the ever-growing tempo of the music. The Heir explained that they were chanting of love and the beauty of women (Source)

What used to be brushed under the carpet or denied, is now openly flaunted with the government being aware of it but doing nothing. One wonders what kind of a life these boys end up etching for themselves and where the morals of the men who engage in this are, or how they manage to dabble in this sort of things and feel no sense of guilt in destroying the lives and innocence of these poor boys.

Trip Down TV Memory Lane: Father Ted

We used to love watching Father Ted. Im not sure if it was because of Father Jack’s incessant cursing and outburts of “Bastard!” or “Feck!” which used to amuse me (although his appearance and general level of hygiene was incredibly repulsive – vomit on clothes, decayed teeth, saliva dribbling down chin: you get the picture). Father Ted, Father Dougal and Mrs Doyle all lived in the Irish town of Craggy Hill – in the middle of nowhere. But they seemingly always had something going wrong despite having little contact with the outside world!

My favourite episodes of Father Ted are those which include the Dancing Priest, and another where they end up in the ladies lingerie section of a department store.

This is what Nick Griffin really meant to say during his stint on Question Time a fortnight ago:

The BNP is a far right wing party in the UK.

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