In “The Tainted Veil,” filmmakers Ovidio Salazar, Nahla Al Fahad, and Mazen Al Khayrat interview a number of scholars and everyday Muslims around the world about the Hijab – the veil worn by many Muslim women.
We hear about misconceptions written in the west about the meaning of the Hijab, and women discuss how they feel about wearing it. Some of them feel obligated to wear it, while others have made a choice to wear it after careful consideration. Others have made the opposite choice and given up the Hijab entirely.
Throughout the documentary, which travels to a variety of countries where the Muslim religion is dominant, as well as where it’s in the minority, women discuss the head scarf singly and in groups. Some of the women grew up in the religion and others converted. We hear from some men as well, but thankfully, the majority of the voices in the film are female.
A mother and daughter have a good-natured argument on camera about it. The mother refuses to wear the Hijab because it makes her feel old, while the daughter likes to wear it because it helps her feel more secure.
One French woman says, “I think people have a wrong image of Islam and veiled women in general because this reminds them of many widely debated issues. I think people feel sorry for me, thinking that I am forced to wear Hijab since an early age.” Many of these women consider it no more oppressive than a necktie. It’s simply an expression of their religion.
In countries like the U.S. and many countries in Europe where there is Islamophobia among some citizens, however, wearing the Hijab telegraphs a woman’s religion to the population and potentially puts her at risk of violent attack.
One of the strengths of the film is that it doesn’t force an opinion on the viewer. All points of view are allowed their time. At the end of the documentary, a British woman calls it simply “a 3-foot-square piece of cloth,” insisting that it isn’t such a big deal. “As long as women are wearing the scarf through an informed choice, that they are choosing to do this of their own free will, and people recognize that,” she says, “then I think that we can move forward on this.”
Certainly, “The Tainted Veil” is timely, and I think it will give viewers a better understanding of Muslims in general. It opens in New York on Dec. 11, 2015. I’m not sure of release elsewhere at this point, but if you’re interested, watch for it.