Thursday, November 15, 2012
Contrary to what might appear to be the case, the writing of this blog (an interesting experiment for me, 243 pageviews yesterday!) occupies very little of my time - most of which is spent working on a variety of projects. One, entitled HONOUR, is particularly dear to my heart. It was conceived months before the ‘riots’ that took place in Hyde Park recently in which we saw a photo of a young boy advocating the beheading those who insult the Prophet Muhammad.
I submitted HONOUR to Screen Australia last month in hopes of getting script development funding but, as a result of the ban that has been placed on me, my application cannot and will not be read!
Here, for anyone interested, is a brief description of a project that Screen Australia, in its wisdom, refuses to assess.
Jasmin, a naive, unworldly, 18 year old Muslim university student, is being stalked by a man intent on killing her to preserve the honour of her family. Or so it seems!
With her carefree optimistic personality and generous spirit what can a ‘good Muslim girl’ like Jasmin - hijab-wearing and devoutly religious - have done to place her life at risk? Is it that she has made friends at university with a Jewish woman her own age, Hannah, and become an apostate – punishable by death under Sharia law? Is it because of the jokes she has told in public at the expense of the Prophet Muhammad? Is it because she is trying to prevent the forced marriage of 16 year old Australian-Afghani, Fatima, to a second cousin in Afghanistan? Or have her father, Zayan, and fiance, Ashik, found out that Jasmin and Hannah have become lovers?
As the story commences Jasmin does not question her father’s wishes, decisions and commands - at least not openly. She accepts, with minimal reluctance, the patriarchal role Zayan (whom she adores) plays in her life. Jasmin’s mildly risqué jokes, told at the dinner table, are most often at the expense of the Prophet Muhammad and his many wives. Zayan is amused, despite himself, but warns Jasmin not to tell such jokes when she is with her ‘uncle’, Bashir (also the family and community imam) and Ashik - Bashir’s 27 year old son and hence Jasmin’s 2nd cousin. Ashik, whose practice of Islam borders on fundamentalist, believes that Sharia law should be applied in Australia. Ashik is in love with Jasmin, wants and expects to marry her, is opposed to the idea of Jasmin going to university (disapproving as he is of Jasmin being exposed to the ‘dangerous ideas’ and ‘lewd’ lifestyles of infidels) and would rather, we learn as the story unfolds, kill the woman he loves than see her bring shame on himself and his family.
There is little in Jasmin’s life during the early stages of the story, on the first day of Eid (to celebrate the end of Ramadan) to suggest that in the not-too-distant future this naive young woman will find herself in serious (and perhaps life-threatening) conflict with her father Zayan, (whom she adores) with her family, with the Muslim community she has grown up in and feels an integral part of, with her imam (‘uncle’ Bashir) as a result of becoming Hannah’s lover; that she will make it onto the front pages of newspapers and be the subject of an intrusive, sensational and factually inaccurate investigative TV report when she identifies herself as the comedienne (in disguise) telling risqué jokes in public (posted on the internet) about Muhammad; that she will enrage the father and brothers in a family of traditional ‘tribal’ Afghani Muslims when she tries to prevent the forced marriage of teenage Fatima to a cousin double her age – a marriage that will probably result in her being the victim of an ‘honour killing’ when it is discovered that Fatima, a regular Aussie Facebook-iPod-using and dance-loving girl is not a virgin; that she will find herself staunchly defending Islam in public (her own 21st C interpretation and practice of it) despite having been cast out by both her family and community as an apostate.
In a ‘Coming of Age’ character-and-relationship-driven drama (with a dash of ‘thriller’ for good measure) Jasmin is confronted with a series of choices that revolve around whether she should live her life in accordance with her God-given sexual preference (as she sees her relationship with Hannah), the dictates of her own conscience, her newfound understanding and alternative interpretation of the Koran or in compliance with the expectations of her father, her family, and Islam as it is practiced in the community of which she is a part and from which she does not wish to be alienated; a form of Islam she thinks of now as being better suited to 7th century Arabia than 21st century Australia.
Jasmin, a young woman of our times, with her feet planted firmly in two different cultures, has chosen a difficult path and finds herself caught between a rock and a very hard place. The decisions she must make are, literally, for both herself and Fatima, life and death decisions.
Jasmin’s many challenges and choices coalesce in the final sequence in HONOUR when she and Hannah carry out a daring last-minute rescue of Fatima at Sydney airport and when Jasmin tries to explain, in a very public (televised) forum, that her love for Hannah is not incompatible with her love of and devout faith in Islam; that her wish to prevent Fatima’s forced marriage is not incompatible with an interpretation of the Koran that is more valid and appropriate in modern day Australia than the ‘tribal’ interpretation of Fatima’s parents; that her love for her father (and family) is unconditional and that she hopes and wishes that they may find it in their hearts to love her also; to accept her for who she is even if they disapprove of the way she lives her life.