Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem (In the Name of God the Most Gracious the Most Merciful)
Hello! (to all my Muslim brothas and sistas, salams!)
So let me start with a little introduction.
I’m 5 foot 3, haha.
I’m a 24-year-old Sri Lankan, the daughter of expats based in the Gulf. I went to a Catholic school where I studied too much and laughed too little (I’ve been making up for that lately).
I started wearing the hijab (the Muslim headscarf) when I was 11 years old, following a particularly meaningful Ramadan. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. My friends and family both gave me something of a hard time about it.
Don’t worry, I’ve forgiven them.
I then went to university in Australia where I continued to not be grateful to be alive, young and healthy. However I actually began to enjoy my studies (Media and Communications with a minor in Creative Writing) which somewhat made up for the lack of a life.
Along the way, while I was doing the usual dumb stuff young people do, I noticed a few things:
- I had no reason to be unhappy but I was.
- Making people laugh made me happy.
- I love making people laugh.
- And when you make people laugh, they start listening. And when they start listening, you can really tell them something. And this is really powerful and with great power comes great responsibility.
- The vast majority of non-Muslims don’t know much about Islam and hence, don’t know much about hijabis. Which leads to quite a few surprises when they actually begin talking to me.
They’re surprised I can speak English – or that I’m literate in any language.
They’re surprised I can take a joke and even make a joke.
They are surprised I know where babies come from.
They are surprised that my parents didn’t force me to wear hijab and that, in fact, I love them and owe them my life (in more ways than the usual way).
They are surprised that I love Star Wars and can quote it backwards and forwards.
They’re surprised, in short, that I’m human.
This is, to a large extent, the fault of the Ummah (the Muslim community).
We’re living in a culture of distraction. At any one time, there’s at least 3 different social media platforms clamoring for my attention on my BlackBerry. And I’m not even that popular.
But I think we as an Ummah have a gift here. People all around the world want to know what we have to say in response to the global “war on terror”. And on an unprecedented level, our world is connected enough to hear our voices and perhaps, if we use the right tools, even listen.
I’ve always loved movies. They told me stories of people that I would probably not have met any other way.
But I never saw myself in the movies. Or anyone that looked like me, for that matter.
As I’ve gotten older, my movie-watching has become increasingly fragmented. If I go to a multiplex, I know I’m going to get mindless drivel which will certainly be entertaining but ultimately dishonest – the same crap with different faces.
And I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person that feels that way. By all accounts, fewer and fewer people are going to the cinema.
So I do what anyone else in my situation would do is and look to art-house and independent cinema for inspiration. I certainly find it.
But still, no (or very few) Muslims.
What’s up with that?
I want to correct that for any number of reasons, small and big. I want something to watch on a Thursday night that doesn’t give me a splitting headache. I want my children to see people that look like themselves on the screen. I want a story I can relate to and that perhaps my children will relate to. I want to see Muslims do something other than blow things up, cut fingers off and beat their wives and generally be giant pains in the collective backside of humanity.
Ultimately I want to make sacred art which according to Frithjof Schuon (I thought I had a weird name), “is made as a vehicle for spiritual presences, it is made at one and the same time for God, for angels and for man: profane art on the other hand exists only for man and by that very fact betrays him.”
Really, a few regular stories of laughing, crying, sleeping, working, joyous Muslims wouldn’t hurt anybody, would they?
La Musulmanne Qui Rit.