Muslim women’s freedom of choice


“I am a Muslim and I never felt represented in what I saw around me. I believe that there is a lot of ignorance, misunderstanding and perhaps a fear of conveying certain messages in the media and in the cinema”, launches the director of the film. out loudSaïda Ouchaou-Ozarowski, in an interview with Subway.

In making this documentary film, Ms. Ouchaou-Ozarowski, of Algerian and Berber origin, wanted to immerse us in the daily lives of six Canadian Muslim women with diverse profiles residing in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and New York, who share their reflections on their identity. and the way Muslim women are viewed, often stereotyped in the media and in society.

For this, the director wanted to deconstruct the prejudices that remain against Muslim women and to change the exacerbated narrative, particularly since the attacks of September 11, 2001 in the United States.

“I wanted my film to make it possible to realize that we cannot put people in the same box.”

Being of the Muslim faith herself, the director wanted to move away from the stereotypical image with which she does not identify by highlighting the diversity of voices and the different realities of the six women she met.

“This film gives a voice to women who do not wear the veil. It speaks to me because I believe in freedom of choice, ”she adds.

Words of the protagonists

In a frank and friendly dialogue, the six protagonists confide in their relationship with Islam and what has shaped their identity. Their testimony without censorship therefore challenges our perceptions of Muslim women and deconstructs the portrayal of the submissive and silenced woman.

“I am in an environment where there is Islamophobia […]. To undo the prejudices, I started to say that I was Muslim and it created a lot of surprise because people have a false view of Muslim women. It’s not me who’s the exception, it’s what you have in your head that doesn’t correspond to reality”, expresses in the film Kenza Bennis, Canadian of Moroccan origin, author of the book The Veil Monologues.

“Since I don’t wear a headscarf and don’t hide my hair, I’m not visibly Muslim. […]. I am a citizen like everyone else, of Canada, Morocco and the world. I have a religion, but the person in front of me does not need to know what it is,” says his co-protagonist Loubna Akhabir.

“Our religion insists on the relationship between yourself and God, no one should tell you how to express yourself or what kind of Muslim you should be,” says his colleague Eman El-Husseini, comedian of Palestinian origin, who wanted to challenge stereotypes from a very young age.

Sonia Ghaya, participant in the documentary “À plein voix” and Saïda Ouchaou-Ozarowski, director of the film.
Photo credit: ONF

Sonia Ghaya recounts how, when she was younger, she challenged the patriarchal side of her culture and her religion. “In a fit of rebellion, I threw it all away [ses origines marocaines et musulmanes] until I was 18 or 19, but as I got older I realized that rejecting that part in me threw me off balance as a person. I found myself neither on the side of native Quebecers nor on the side of Muslim Moroccans.”

“One of the problems that has existed for the last centuries is the masculinization of Muslim religious authority. […] Women have been invisible throughout history […] Young Muslim Quebecers have the right to live their faith and to understand that their faith is not in contradiction with the society in which they live,” says Asmaa Ibnouzahir, founder of the Institut F in Montreal.

“A lot of second-generation kids feel there’s a kind of more conservative rigidity [de la part des parents] around culture. In my twenties I felt like I had to keep things going […]. I realize as I get older that it’s the natural evolution and progression of cultures […]“, shares the artist Farheen Haq, mother of two children from a mixed marriage.

Encourage intercultural dialogue

The documentary film will be presented free of charge at the Intercultural Library of Côte-des-Neiges on Sunday, November 27 at 1:30 p.m. The screening will be followed by an open-mic discussion with the public, moderated by Professor Norman Cornett, retired from Mc Gill University and the University of California at Berkeley and specialist in religious studies.

out loud raises the issue of reconciliation between women and Islam. This film is for me a way to demystify the otherness that threatens multicultural societies,” maintains Mr. Cornett, who particularly wants to promote dialogue between the cultures that inhabit the Côte-des-Neiges district, where he lives.

“Islamism and the reality of Muslim women are part of the cultural fabric of this neighborhood. On the issue of Law 21 and secularism, which is a hot topic, my intention is to open a debate about the issues addressed in the film.

This text was produced as part of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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