Free Zone Film Festival in Belgrade is festival of “involved movie” often quite controversial. This time was not exception. Yesterday there were two Dutch movies with the theme “Women and Islam”. And the guests on the debate after projections were director of the second movie Ms Merel Beernink and Belgrade’s Imam Mr. Mohamed Jusufspahic.

First movie was worldwide known Submission by Theo Van Gogh

The movie deals with the topic of violence against women in Islamic societies; telling the stories of four abused Muslim women. The title itself, “Submission”, is the translation of the word “Islam” in English.
The film is controversial. It was perceived as insulting by many Muslims, and several people loyal to Hirsi Ali’s (scrip writer) cause against abuse and oppression of women expressed doubts about the effectiveness of this film, fearing that it would only polarize positions.

After the movie was released in 2004, both van Gogh and Hirsi Ali received death threats. On November 2, 2004, Theo van Gogh was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri. A letter pinned to the body with a dagger linked the murder to Van Gogh’s film and his views regarding Islam. It called for jihad against kafir (kafir is an Arabic word for someone who does not believe in God), America, Europe, the Netherlands and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

After the murder of Theo van Gogh, Submission gained international fame. It was withdrawn from a film festival in Rotterdam, but was shown on television in a number of European countries.

The movie was no doubt quite shocking but for different reasons for Muslims and those who aren’t Muslims. Namely it’s story about abused women, promised to their husbands at the age of 16 and their hell-marriage. Their faces were covered but not the rest of the bodies which are covered with bruises and livid marks but also covered with tattoos with verses from The Holly Koran. Their acceptance of that kind of life in His name and obeying His word about marriage, their complete submission was terrifying.

On the other hand what was terrifying (and insulting) for Muslims was the fact that she has her body covered with verses from the Holly Book. And debate was in that directions. As a Christian I cannot comment feeling of Muslims but if someone would tattooed Our Lord on the body I would accepted that dumb rather than insulting.
What was strange that the accent on that discussion was precisely on verses on the body while bruises were completely ignored.

So the question is Is religion (fate) for maltreated women in traditional Muslim communities in the same time their consolation but also their cage?

Second movie was That Paradise Will Be Mine by Merel Beernink

that paradise will be mine

A frank portrayal of what it means to be a Dutch Muslim, this eye-opening film follows the lives of three women dealing with the consequences of their choice to convert to Islam. Rather than pressing the women for the reasons behind their choice, director Merel Beernink takes a close look at their day-to-day lives, letting them speak candidly about how they feel in their new cultural and religious context.
Issues of marriage and relationship loom large for all three women. Astrid, who had a brief but unhappy arranged marriage, is now living with her parents and looking for a husband. Inge is considering a move to Cairo to marry her Egyptian fiancé. Rabia is married to a Muslim man and struggling with matters such as polygamy and homosexuality. Their perspectives are complemented by revealing and often touching interviews with their parents. Capturing these women’s struggle to reconcile the expectations of their families and friends with the demands of their new conviction, Beernink’s intimate portraits offer fascinating insight into to why it is so difficult for those brought up in Western culture to choose a different kind of life.

On the debate director, Ms Beernink said that she wanted to explore why these young women have decide to “give up her freedom” and with that she expressed her view on their decision. The Netherlands is country probably with the highest level of social freedom and it was interesting to see reaction of the family members of these young women but also their adaptation on the new (restricted) liberties. One of the theory is that tendency is a result precisely of that unlimited freedom; that they were seeking one frame of social behavior in which they will feel secure. And they have found it in Islam.

Director said that in the process of making this film she followed 200 women but decided to make movie about only these who decided that because their sincere beliefs and fate. (many of them have converted themselves because of Muslim boyfriend etc)
What was quite interesting is that one of them who has Muslim boyfriend (but after she took Islam) was “better” Muslim that he who is Moroccan and Muslim by his birth. And as director said, that is very often the case with all converted Muslims.
On the other hand we could see that total acceptance is still might be a problem, they are putting make up (which is forbidden in Islam) or watching TV (also forbidden) etc.

Interesting this is what the one of the girls said “If I found a husband I’ll tell him I am a Muslim but my family is Dutch and not Muslim and that HAS TO BE RESPECTED!” so I wondering if the need for that ultimatum are showing intolerance justified by religion?