'Hala' Is The Muslim Story We've Been Waiting For
Entertainment

'Hala' Is The Muslim Story We've Been Waiting For

The Muslim Narrative has always been non-existent in Hollywood. With "Hala," it is now front and center.

171
'Hala' Is The Muslim Story We've Been Waiting For
Apple TV

What do you think when you hear the term 'Muslim girl?' Perhaps, you envision a young woman who is different, foreign. Someone who is quiet, meek. Shrouded in a hijab, not an inch of her body exposed.

www.youtube.com

What if I were to tell you that there so many women, who happen to be Muslim, and are nothing like that at all?

Minhal Baig's recent coming-to-age film "Hala," examines these tropes and offers a more layered portrayal of Muslim girls.

"Hala" is a tale that follows a Pakistani-American Muslim teen who is navigating her life through various lenses of her identity. The 2019 Film is Baig's second cinematic creation, produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and distributed by Apple TV+.

Hala is a reserved, soft-spoken girl, yet intuitive and alert. She enjoys skateboarding, poetry, and is an avid writer with a promising future in literature. She is a balance between stereotypes about Muslim women and the antithesis of those stereotypes.

"Hala" is set in the comforts of American suburbia. Her father, Zahid, is a struggling lawyer who enjoys small, loving moments with his daughter throughout the film. We see him as an ally to Hala, and his gentle nature is presented as a challenge to the trope of hyper-controlling, brutal Muslim man.

Hala's mother, Eram, is a traditional Pakistani Muslim mother who tends to her home and often clashes with Hala because of the importance she places on rigid cultural values. Hala's mother does not speak English well, despite living in the United States for over 10 years. This language barrier widens the already-present gap between mother and daughter.

From the get-go, we see the movie challenging western perceptions, and even Muslim's perceptions, of Muslims. The film opens with a scene of Hala masturbating in her bathtub. A "good Muslim woman" is expected to not even think of her genitals in a pleasuring way, and Hala is already breaking this taboo 10 seconds in.

Eram, oblivious to Hala's blissful actions, believes that she has missed her morning prayer because she slept in. This is the first of many fiery exchanges between mother and daughter.

Hala's range of sexual discovery is not limited to personal pleasure. She has a crush on her fellow classmate and skateboarding rival, Jesse. A crush, harmless to many, unacceptable for Muslim girls. To further complicate matters, Jesse is non-muslim and white. We witness a couple of intimate scenes between the two, which is an underhanded jab at the sexual rigidity of Muslims.

Initially, this relationship was met with criticism by some Muslims who believed that Jesse's character was written as a "white savior" and as an escape from religious theocracy. What they do not realize, however, is that navigating sexuality in a conservative religious space, especially as a Muslim girl, is a journey in itself.

Baig's portrayal of how Hala handles these arousing emotions capture the duplexity of Muslim women and the uncovering humane desires they so often suppress.

The dynamics of parent-child relationships are another component tackled in Hala. Growing up as a third-culture teen, she must straddle the expectations of her traditional mother and her own desires. Hala's father is an advocate for her, but as the film progresses, we see him turn into the antagonist.

From his affair with another woman to his mishandling of Hala's relationship, the bond between the two quickly derails.

In turn, Hala grows even closer to her mother, and she becomes her confidant. These family dynamics expose the real-life trials and tribulations of Muslim families. The contrast of a Muslim father who starts out as the stark opposite to Muslim male stereotypes but later becomes the embodiment of those stereotypes challenges the broad and limiting image that Muslim men are pigeonholed in.

Perhaps, the most climactic moment in the film is the confrontation between Eram, the mother, and Zahid, the father. Eram has had enough of Zahid's years of neglect and cheating, so she announces a Talaq, a triple divorce.

In Islam, there are various forms of divorce, with women and men having the right to initiate various kinds. Talaq, the most notable one, is an initiation that is only carried out by men. A husband would say 'Talaq' three times to his wife as a formal repudiation.

Eram uses Talaq on her husband and finally puts her foot down in her failed marriage. Talaq, for women, is something that is taboo and unheard of. Women who initiate Talaq can be scorned and excommunicated from the Muslim community.

Hala's mother, an uneducated Pakistani housewife, is taking back her power. By announcing Talaq, she is displaying agency, something that is often denied to Muslim women. She and Hala then relocate and each begins to carve out their own path separate from the man in their life.

Although "Hala" has caused a stir amongst Muslims, there has been much praise for the film by many critics. It offers a new perspective on Muslim life and the various intersections that shape Muslim life.

Being a Muslim girl in this country, I know that Muslim representation is non-existent in American cinema.

Whenever there is a Muslim person in a tv show or film, they are always portrayed in a negative way. The narrative of Muslims in Hollywood has been violent, repetitive, and reinforces tropes about Muslims.

That is why "Hala" is such an iconic and necessary film in our current climate. Baig's film does its best to capture the complexity of being a Muslim woman today while conveying that this is only one slice of the Muslim story.

"Hala" is a nuanced portrayal of American Muslim life that Muslims have been craving and Hollywood has been missing. The film welcomes outsiders to Muslim duality and allows Muslim girls to see themselves, their full-selves, on a big screen.

"Hala" is definitely the first of its kind, and hopefully, the predecessor to many that are to follow.

Report this Content

-Having struggled with acne prone skin for years, I was cautious to try a new serum on top of the other products I've come to trust.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Your Social Activism May Actually Benefit From A Cleansing Social Media Detox

In the craziest year of our lives, sometimes there's value in taking a break.

We are living through, unequivocally, one of the most dangerous, unstable, chaotic periods of any of our lives. From COVID-19 to crises of police brutality to the mass exploitation of the poor by mega-corporations, the world outside seems to be looking more dystopic every day. What can be done about it? For many, activism involves heavily posting on social media to keep others aware. However, this comes with a net negative cost — increased levels of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness about the state of the world. Why might this be? After all, in past eras activists have endured comparable and greater levels of abuse and relentless torment from oppressors. Why, now, are people getting so easily burnt out?

Keep Reading... Show less

Reading is a relaxing activity that provides many benefits. Everybody reads books (when they are not watching Netflix, chatting on social media, or making Tik Tok videos) to distract themselves from reality for a while. Many do not realize the positive impact that books have like reducing stress, assisting with sleep, improving cognitively, and strengthening the mind. In honor of National Book Day, there are many great novels that you can read to mark this special holiday. Here are the best ones to check out.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

5 Things You Need To Know Before You Watch 'Arrested Development' On Netflix

"Her?" Yes, she's an amazing show! (You'll get this joke after you watch the show).

Netflix

"Arrested Development" is an award-winning sitcom that aired for three seasons on Fox beginning in 2003, and then was picked up by Netflix for a fourth season in 2013, and then again for a final season in 2018.

However, it seems to remain one of the world's most underrated and under-appreciated shows of all time. Although this article alone won't be enough to skyrocket the show to Netflix's top 10, I hope that it will open people's eyes to the value and quality of the show.

Keep Reading... Show less

I have always felt left out because of how I look and who I am. I have always felt like the elephant in the room, literally. I have always been shamed for my size. For the longest time, I cared so much about what I wear and who I wore certain things in front of. I never wanted to wear shirts that would show a lot of my arm, located above my elbow. I wouldn't wear shorts that didn't go to the tip of my knees, at least. I never wore anything remotely tight, where you could see every curve, roll, or imperfection. I was so insecure about myself, and not many of my friends knew.

Keep Reading... Show less

Being a pharmacy technician never held as many risks as it does now. Exposure too hazardous conditions were little to none, and garbing up was only conducted in IV compounding. But, now, in order to give nurses the medications they need to help their patients, they need us, pharmacy technicians.

Keep Reading... Show less
Swoon

I Asked My Boyfriend His Opinion On Liking Other Girls’ Pictures, And, Spoiler Alert, It's Cheating

"When you get into a relationship and you're in love, you have to realize that liking photos is for the single lifestyle."

Ladies, listen up. If you are in a relationship with a guy and he is liking other girls' pictures on social media, then it's a red flag. A man who can look at someone else and show interest by liking it means he doesn't care about your feelings AT ALL.

Keep Reading... Show less
Entertainment

Celebrities Stealing Designs From Small Fashion Labels Is NOT A Good Look, And They Need To Pay Up

When larger, more established figures or brands steal from lesser-known independent creators, they are taking opportunities away from these creators while also profiting from someone else's work and claiming it as their own.

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B recently collaborated on their new single "WAP," with the music video also being released on Friday. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B posted photos of themselves on Instagram to celebrate the premiere of "WAP." An independent designer quickly noticed that the rappers' matching tops were copies of a top she had designed last year.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

When You Have A Disability, Finding A Job Is Twice As Hard, Believe Me, I Know

We have got to create a safer work environment for people with disabilities.

"My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn't prevent you from doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don't be disabled in spirit as well as physically." – Stephen Hawking

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

7 Books That Are NOT In The Young Adult Genre That Will Change Your Life

Young Adult isn't the only genre that exists, so here are seven books that any book lover wanting to try something new will love.

One of the most popular genres in literature that everyone has read at least one book from is Young Adult fiction. Now, I personally can say that, in the past, I have been one of those people that only read from the YA section of the bookstore.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with just reading one genre, it's good sometimes to venture out of your reading comfort zone into the other book genres of the literary world.

In a previous article, I discussed the importance and power of words. The perfect example of this is literature and its impact on the world. Books have always played a crucial part in human lives, from how we are able to expand our knowledge to how we pass our time.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments