Filmmakers Laura Nix and Julia Meltzer in attendance for Q&A after the film
Cinematography by Anne Etheridge and Julia Meltzer
Edited by Nathaniel Fregoso and Monique Zavistovski
Music by Kinan Azmeh
USA, 2011, color, HD Cam, 86 min.
Houda Al-Habash is helping liberate Syrian women through unexpected means – teaching young girls to memorize the Qur’an. Every summer in Damascus she holds a two-month “Vacation Qur’an School” for girls who study the rest of the year in secular schools. Houda is actually a revolutionary – encouraging women to know the contents of the Qur’an in order to be able to argue and point out passages which support their points-of-view. She is providing girls and young women with knowledge to overcome ignorant diatribes against women, male ideology which comes more from custom and tradition than from the teachings of Mohammed.
Houda Al-Habash tells the girls who have attended her school: “What I really wish from you girls is to speak up if there’s something you don’t like. If anything doesn’t fit with you, ask why. You are free in your choices, free in your way of thinking, free in your faith, free in everything. Women can be teachers and students, can rule and arbitrate.”
Throughout Julia Meltzer and Laura Nix’s completely enlightening documentary are snippets from male clerics “defining” the role of women in Islam, according to their interpretations of the Qur’an (or more likely according to the customs observed for centuries). In their views, women should stay at home as much as possible. For women, praying at home is better than in the mosque. The four duties of woman: reproduce, raise the children, take care of her husband, and take care of the house (which is not that far from the Nazi ideal focus for women: children, kitchen, church). Houda Al-Habash is steadily fighting against these reactionary views of women’s lot in life. For 20 years she has been taking care of her husband, house, and children, while studying the Qur’an and teaching thousands of young women and girls to arm themselves with knowledge.
Laura Nix has directed 35 documentaries, both narrative and short, many of which have been screened on HBO, the History Channel, and PBS. THE POLITICS OF FUR has been her most recognized film, playing at over 70 film festivals internationally, and winning many awards. Co-producer/co-director/cinematographer Julia Meltzer is an artist and filmmaker who, through her work with David Thorne, has received various international awards. – Chale Nafus