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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

For women’s eyes only: Qatari’s short film sparks controversy in New Zealand

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A Qatari-American woman’s art exhibition that is open only to females and small children has sparked controversy in New Zealand among some residents who say that men shouldn’t be excluded.

Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only, is a 10-minute film by Sophia al-Maria that shows Muslim women preparing for a cousin’s wedding without their hijabs on.

It will debut on Sept. 8 as part of a larger exhibition called In Spite of Ourselves: Approaching Documentary.

On its website, the Dowse Art Museum, which is hosting the world premiere, explained:

Because the work has been filmed in female-only quarters, the artist has requested that only women and their young children view the video, a request that The Dowse will respect by providing a private viewing space behind its reception area…

Like many Western conventions (men’s and women’s changing rooms, gentlemen’s clubs, hen’s and stag parties), The Dowse asks that New Zealanders respect the privacy of the women in the video. In public these women would usually be seen wearing a loose over-garment called abaya, not burka.

It adds that the filmmaker described her work as portraying “universal issues familiar to all women, but with different clothes in a different city… The further this piece goes from its home, the more important its message becomes.”

According to 3 News:

The ban has put the gallery offside with some Lower Hutt locals – the Human Rights Commission has confirmed it has received seven complaints about the exhibition, and it could breach the Human Rights Act through sex discrimination, but it can’t actually assess that until next week when the exhibition opens…

The president of the New Zealand Islamic Association…says the complaints are ridiculous. “There shouldn’t be any issue whatsoever, there are a lot of things in this country which we have exclusively for one gender or the other, such as the gym exclusively for women,” says Dr Anwar Ghani.

What do you think?

Credit: Photo courtesy of Dowse’s Facebook page

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