'Hala' Is The Muslim Story We've Been Waiting For
Start writing a post

'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.

'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.


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
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.


The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series


Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?


Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments