Hip Hop Hijabis – An Interview with Director Mette Reitzel

Sometimes, when people see a girl wear a hijab, they have certain types of thoughts that automatically come to their minds: that the girl is meek and subservient. Usually those who have these types of thoughts have never met a girl who wears hijab and therefore their assumptions are based in nothing.

Truth is, hijabis can be readers, writers, and even hip hop artists.

No, no, that latter point has nothing to do with me.

I’m speaking of Sukina and Muneera, two converts to Islam who have formed a spoken word/hip hop duo called Poetic Pilgrimage. In the upcoming documentary, Hip Hop Hijabis, Director Mette Reitzel highlights these two friends and their lives over three years. From the crowd funding website:

We go behind the scenes at major international events but also share the private highs and lows as difficult decisions need to be made. It’s an emotional, thought-provoking and engaging musical road movie that takes us on a journey through the UK, US and Morocco.

Although the documentary has already been shot, it is still in the editing process and funds are still needed, hence the effort to crowd fund at Sponsume.

I recently had an opportunity to ask the director, Mette Reitzel some questions about Hip Hop Hijabis and what she hopes will come from this film:

What kind of story do you want to tell your audience with Hip Hop Hijabis?

Most of all this is the story of two close friends trying to find their place in the world.

However, the unusual choices they have made in their lives touches on some very topical issues, such as the role of religion in contemporary society, multiculturalism, racism and gender equality. The fact that they are musicians and also quite fun to be around means that the film will appeal to a wide audience and therefore make those important, but potentially dry and academic, debates easier to relate to on a personal level, which is where it really matters.

In an interview you conducted with Muslimah Media Watch you said:

“I don’t feel like I have to come up with a conclusion, that there is a particular thing that I want everybody to think when they walk away.”

However, I was wondering what you have come away with from this experience of working with Sukina and Muneera and shooting footage for the Hip Hop Hijabis documentary?

I’m very grateful to have gained an insight into the lives of two such interesting and unusual people and look forward to sharing this story with the world.

What I meant with that quote is that it isn’t a campaign film trying to promote a particular viewpoint. The aim is to encourage constructive intercultural dialogue by focusing on our common human needs, quirks and desires, rather than arguing about whether or not there is a God and what his/her name might be.

I personally consider myself agnostic, but I can understand and respect why religion is helpful and important for many people across the world, and I find the judgmental attitudes towards religion in general and Islam in particular quite counter-productive if the aim is creating a more socially just and inclusive society.

Also, is there at least one thing you are hoping everyone will get after watching this documentary?

Maybe the key thing is to understand that there are many different interpretations of Islam as there is of any faith.

I’m not denying that some of these interpretations don’t align very well with ‘Western values’ and that there are problems with misogyny and extremism in certain parts of the Muslim community, but there are also many Muslims who are speaking out against these practices from within a religious framework.

I’m a filmmaker and NOT an Islamic scholar, so it isn’t my place to say which interpretation is more true to the Islamic scriptures but simply to highlight these questions and encourage constructive debates both inside and outside the Muslim community.

It may sound quite basic and self-evident when expressed like that, but the process of crowd-funding has made me acutely aware of just how entrenched some of these attitudes are.

How can people help fund this project now and going forward?

There are only a few days left of the official crowd-funding campaign but we will still gratefully accept donations after that!

I’m hoping we can post the details of how to do that on the actual crowdfunding page, otherwise people are welcome to contact us on this email address: hip.hop.hijabis [at] factionfilms.co.uk

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Honestly, I think it’s really cool that these stories are being told. Sometimes, I feel like most think that Muslims have to be only one kind of people but we all are so diverse, interest and talent-wise, that we can’t all have the same story. Nor should we. I wish Mette Reitzel, Sukina, and Muneera luck with Hip Hop Hijabis!

Further Reading: Check out Sukina and Muneera on a recent BBC interview.

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