Film Fest: Me and the Mosque

By Nathan Atnikov

“If not now, when?”

This is the central question of director Zarqa Nawaz’s documentary, Me and the Mosque. The film explores the Islamic attitude towards women, specifically in regards to partitions, an alarming new trend in Canadian mosques. These usually opaque barriers separate women from men during prayer. One of many interviewees in the film poses the above question, wondering how such a seemingly archaic tradition is still widely in use.

The film reveals this practice is not archaic at all. Nawaz, with the help of Islamic experts, discovers nowhere in the Quran is there a description of any such prayer barricade. The concept is an invention of modern Islam and this fuels the filmmaker’s search.

Nawaz’s documentary is conducted with passion and conviction, but it succeeds in spite of that, not because of it. It would have been easy for her to let emotion get the better of her but thankfully she avoids this pitfall. She also avoids the Michael Moore-style documentary; instead of talking to a bunch of people who disagree with her and trying to make them look stupid, she finds people who share her vision and reinforce it. The result is a hopeful statement about the future of Islam and the role of its women.

Any film criticizing religion is bound to raise some eyebrows, but Nawaz’s documentary is thoughtful and, for the most part, non-confrontational. It’s obviously too much to ask her to solve the problem in 52 minutes, but not to open some dialogue, a feat the film succeeds at admirably.


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