On missing the dangerous, regressive politics of Halal Love Story

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Many seem to have have misread the politics and the intention behind the film ‘Halal Love Story’, mainly due to lack of awareness about Jamaat-e-Islami, the organisation on which it is based on or about the association of the scriptwriters with this organisation. The film DOES NOT portray the life of all Muslims of Kerala, but a narrow sect who are known for their regressive views. The criticisms against the film ARE NOT about the show of Muslim symbols and greetings, which we have had in umpteen films.

The criticism is specifically about the whitewashing of this organisation. It is NOT a satire on the organisation. A few gentle, harmless pokes do not make it a satire. What we have to look at is where does the director and the scriptwriter stand. They clearly stand with Thoufeeq, the scriptwriter of the film within film, who wants to make a film to fit the organisation’s narrow, regressive viewpoint of the world. He argues passionately for the same and the film unapologetically stands with him. On the other hand, although the script shows some sympathy for Siraj (Joju), the director, who is shown to be outside of the bounds of their sect or even the religion, he is also shown as a drunkard who has messed up his personal life, whereas all of the organisation’s members are ‘nanma marams’.

Those who priase the film can’t really be blamed for not knowing about the nature of the organisation, mainly due to how they intervene in public sphere. Many ‘secular’ figures have been lured into inaugurating their events, while they make their presence felt in environmental or human rights protests. They organise film fests and lit fests, all as part of widening their sphere of influence. Same is true of organisations like SDPI/PFI. Even someone like Aashiq Abu is now firmly under their influence. An otherwise articulate and sensible actor like Parvathy suddenly imagined islamophobia in her own acclaimed film ‘Take Off’, after she began interacting closely with the makers of this film. Branding anyone who criticises their narrow views as islamophobic is similar to the technique that the sangh parivar uses to blame anyone who criticises the sangh as anti-Hindu. These organisations should be seen separately from the religions they claim to represent. They are respectively the proponents of political Islam and political Hindutva.

Also perplexing was the support that some of the feminists showered on this film, for the organisation has highly problematic views on women’s agency. Maududi, their founder, saw women’s place as firmly within the household. One of the central issues in this film — that a man and woman who are not married to each other cannot mingle together — goes very much with his ideology. The film gets a cute workaround for this problem. It is not an issue that should have been treated so lightly and so humourously, for many a women have suffered due narrow ideologies like this.

The lazy shots showing the banners of Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), the students wing of the Jamaat-e-islami, are not coincidences, as the makers themselves are associated with these organisations. SIO has a curious history. It did not have women members. So, they started another organisation just for girls -GIO (Girls Islamic Organisation), so that there is no inter-mingling.

Their politics is not easy to identify as identifying the overt politics in a pro-sangh film, where they tell you whom to hate. Here, it is all given a wrapper of love and nanma. All that glitter is used to intelligently cover the regressive, dangerous politics that they stand for. Only a negligible percentage of Kerala’s Muslims agree with their politics. It is unfair to the Muslims of the state to portray or view this film as representative of all Muslims.

Quite a lot can be written about what people have missed….This film is one important step in the creation of a new MCU — Maududi Cinematic Universe ….(Google Maududi, the founder of the organisation, to know more about what they are. Also, try to read their constitution and their history in Bangladesh)

Link to my review here — https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/halal-love-story-movie-review-an-ambiguous-take-on-filmmaking-within-boundaries/article32859831.ece

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