Safety

I went to see the film “Shahada” the other day. Set in Germany, it tells the stories of three young Muslim characters, of the intersection of cultural influences in their lives and religion.

The most touching story for me was that of Maryam, the daughter of the imam. She was a party girl who, at the start of the film, took some pills to have an illegal abortion. The pain and severe bleeding combined with the guilt, and she became unwell and a bit psychologically unhinged as the blood loss continued for some time. After repeatedly begging God to make it stop, and promising to quit her sinful life, she self-radicalised, and started offending the liberal mosque community by aggressively quoting apocalyptic Quran verses about God’s impending wrath. She blamed her dad for being too tolerant and giving her too much freedom in the first place.

I think I found it moving because I know how this can happen. I know the feeling of looking around your life and thinking, “this is all wrong”… and being drawn to a religious life that seems so much more safe and happy by contrast. But I also know that that illusory contentment masks a reality that is sterile, inauthentic, and equally full of “wrong”. I know what it’s like to step back into the world and be able to see life in colour again. In all its pain and beauty.

Everyone wants their children to be safe. Some people see safety in freedom and tolerance and responsible choice. Others see safety in the confines of religious rules. But I guess for some sensitive souls who take life too seriously, freedom to learn about life the hard way just hurts, while rules just produce dangerous mindless zeal. Maryam ended the film on the bridge, gazing into the water where her friend had thrown her aborted foetus, and coming to terms with it. Maybe for her there is no safety, but I sense there is potential for growth, for a depth, wisdom and maturity that her party-girl friend and the equally shallow sisters’ circle at the mosque would never have.

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8 Responses to Safety

  1. susanne430 says:

    Sounds like an interesting movie! Thanks for sharing about it. I wonder if there is a happy medium between the two extremes described?

    • Sarah says:

      Exactly, I think so. I think some people take life very seriously and do go to extremes, but then when they settle in the happy medium, they understand why much more deeply.

  2. sanil says:

    I know the feeling of looking around your life and thinking, “this is all wrong”… and being drawn to a religious life that seems so much more safe and happy by contrast. But I also know that that illusory contentment masks a reality that is sterile, inauthentic, and equally full of “wrong”. I know what it’s like to step back into the world and be able to see life in colour again. In all its pain and beauty.

    That was really well put. I keep trying to add more to the comment, but realizing I’m just rephrasing what you already said. 😀 So I’ll just say it’s a great post and I agree. The movie sounds very interesting, thanks for sharing it!

  3. Stephanie says:

    I can only speak for myself, but the mistakes I’ve made are little parts that make up the whole. Pain and joy are the peaks of experience that make up our lives and therein lies the beauty. Yes, life IS full of pain and struggle of such magnitude that not even religion can dampen it. In some ways, religion invites the struggle or at least the idea of victimhood and martyrdom. The difference is, the believer thinks their struggle will be rewarded in the next life, to the extent that the most extreme minded adherents don’t even try to right that which is wrong in their lives because it is viewed as some divine test culminating in judgement from God.

    • Sarah says:

      Great points – religion might offer people the assurance of being in God’s will, but it doesn’t necessarily make life easy or less painful. It gives meaning to life’s struggles, but sometimes at the expense of actually doing anything constructive about them, as you say. I personally never found religious assurances very satisfying. Too many questions in my mind. I tend to crave that feeling of there being some ultimate meaning to everything I struggle through, though.

  4. Achelois says:

    I’ll see if I can download this movie. Seems very interesting.

    • Sarah says:

      It’s worth a watch, not very long either. Let me know if you do! I would love to know whether the very liberal imam was at all realistic, you’d probably know better than me. (He told the character Sammi who was struggling with being gay that God approved of love in all its forms, and was better at love than humans are. I was like, wow!)

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