The Danish documentary series, Slöjor och höga klackar, (Veils and high heels) has been airing on Finland’s Swedish language television FST5 for the past month or so. The series is the product of Anja Al-Erhayem, a woman who is the daughter of a Danish mother and an Iraqi father, who travels around the Middle East interviewing young people in Qatar, Iran, Lebanon, Israel, Syria and in Turkey.
For the most part, the series is done with the intention of seeking out young people (those being interviewed) whose outlooks on life differ from that of the stereotypes that are often portrayed here in the West about the Middle East in general. Young people Iran are seen partying behind closed doors, drinking alcohol and dancing with the opposite sex, or gay Arab men in Lebanon as the series explores the under world sex culture in Beirut.
You get the idea.
Last Thursday’s episode took place in Syria, where Anja Al-Erhayem interviews Christian and Muslim youths, allowing them to explain their hopes, dreams and desires, as well as their fears. One man in particular, who takes care of his elderly mother said that for the most part, Christians in Syria live in peace, but also that he’s scared for the future because of the rise of fundamentalist Islam.
Blogger Kumitonttu told the TT what he observed:
“But then, there a was a moderate, nice 30+ woman, who wondered why Europeans see Middle-East muslims as terrorists. Well, she had an answer to that: “25% of European radio and tv-channels get their finance from Israel.” That’s neat – in Finland that’s supposed to mean Yle (state TV) and Hesari (Helsingin Sanomat), I guess?
No matter how “moderate” the Muslim may appear, Islamic anti-Semitism is not too far from his or her thinking, they get it through their mothers milk, from generation to generation. Most noticeable was the lack of any kind of challenge to the woman’s false claim from the film maker herself. Apparently Anja Al-Erhayem is in agreement?
One interesting note is that while visiting Iraq just before and after the fall of Saddam Hussein, she noticed that (scroll down to her name) “many people, having being suppressed by Saddam Hussein, found the Taliban system attractive. She learned that even well-educated Iraqi women thought that whatever bad they heard about the Taliban regime must be American propaganda.”
So I ask you, is the West really that far off in how it understands and depicts the Arab Middle East? I think not. Most of what I’ve seen in the four documentaries thus far, are scenes of Muslim youths wanting to divest themselves from their backward ways -which stems from Islam and the culture it bred- and join the modern world, which means= Western ways and its values. But neither are they sure of how it can be accomplished, if at all. KGS
Special note of thanks to Kumitonttu.