“As men, we are all equal in the presence of death.” – But not in Islam.

We are told time and time again that death is a part of life, we cannot escape it. ‘Everything is temporary.’ We say these things to remind us of what we already know, but can’t seem to understand.

It doesn’t make it any less painful. Nothing can rewind, fast-forward or take it away. That men and women alike should be able to mourn death comes as simple fact. That is the norm.

Women are too hysterical.

But what Westerners take as fact may not always be the case cross-culturally. Take Saudi Arabia for example. It was with great surprise that I discovered that alongside the fact that women in Saudi are not permitted to drive (amongst other things), they are also not allowed to visit graveyards.

Why? Because they are too hysterical. Adamant in their beliefs that women would ‘cry, scream, pull out their hair and slap themselves’ the men claim they are simply protecting them from themselves.

But in reality this is a vicious cycle. The women may be just like a child that has spent their entire lives in a sterile, bubble of a world, only to step outside and immediately contract disease because his immune system has not developed.

These rules don’t usually tend to be written down concretely, but tradition, and custom imposes them. This means that, (as is the case with many an Islamic belief) it is not the Quran, or the Prophet that imposes them, but rather individual interpretations.

But things are changing.

During my visit to Doha last week for the Tribeca Film Festival, I had the opportunity to watch ten short films that were created by students of the film institute. As is often the case with youth, they were relatively progressive in terms of their ideas and their beliefs.

Two films were particularly noteworthy. The first was based on the afore-mentioned issues, namely that women in Saudi (and Qatar) are not really permitted to visit graveyards. The film focused on the plight of a girl who’s mother had passed away. In an effort to visit the graves, she dressed as a boy, where she was eventually caught. Skirting the issue the security guard, although chasing her, eventually let her go.

Qatar society exploded the next day, saying the film was about cross dressing and insulted tradition.

The next film was supremely controversial. Featuring a homosexual, the film saw him coming out to his sister. “If my God doesn’t understand love in all its forms, he’s not my God.”

Qatar society EXPLODED.

But the fact that these films were even thought up and shown on a big screen is already progressive enough for the moment.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step.”

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