From Le Monde's weekly supplement Aden

May 15, 2002

"My Islam Believes in Dialogue. My film raises questions only. It's then up to each person to make their own judgment."

The director of Matir Moina wants to show the beauty and diversity of his country.

Le Monde: This is your first feature film. It also tells your own personal story?

Tareque Masud: My childhood was the most intense period of my life. Like Anu, the little boy in the film, I underwent religious schooling in madrasa. These schools are very strict. At the same time, they help the most disadvantaged children. I myself had come from a relatively privileged background, and in the madrasa I found myself surrounded by children who, for the most part, had no family.

Le Monde: This was a period of growing political tension between Islamic extremists and secularists. At the end of the film, civil war breaks out. Despite all this, you have adopted a very contemplative stance on these dramatic events.

TM: Being a child, I saw these events from a distance. It was this sense of distance-which I believe is essential-that I tried to recreate in the film. Anu is an passive observer of the world around him. He does not try to intervene. This puts him in a privileged position. Adults already have preconceived opinions and judgments. But through Anu's eyes, without discrimination, the diverse aspects of my society are revealed: religious pluralism, the moderate Sufi sects, the secular traditions, nationalism… In this context, political upheaval is just one aspect among many. It's then up to each person, following Anu's lead, to make their own judgment. If my film raises questions, it does so from the innocent perspective of a child.

Le Monde: Through all its contrasting impressions, an image emerges of a country which is culturally very rich.

TM: Bangladesh is a complex country. This reality has nothing to do with its image abroad, of a poor country of famine, flood and fundamentalism. I wanted to convey my own image of my country, that of a moderate Muslim Bangladesh, and to bring out its social, cultural, and political diversity… I wanted to show the diversity of my country in all its contradictions-for me this is the best approach, not only because it is more credible, but also because it is more beautiful.

Le Monde: A beauty which also takes much inspiration from Islam.

TM: For us, Islam is rooted in our own soil, it has evolved and adapted to our own traditions, including Hinduism. It has thus become our own form of Islam, a popular Islam. This is expressed through the 'bahas' songs that we hear in the film. These mystical songs are still very popular, and serve to transmit much of our knowledge and heritage. They are a means of meditation and prayer.

Le Monde: However, as we see with Anu's father, many Muslims condemn these practices…

TM: In the strict sense of the Shariah, songs are considered profane. But this is only from an oversimplified reading of the Koran and Hadith. It doesn't take account of the different interpretations and debates that have always been an essential part of our religion. Unfortunately, this aspect is often overlooked. For the rest of the world, the image of Islam tends to be dominated by its extremist and intolerant currents. However, our religion is founded on principles of dialogue. This is what I wanted to show in my film. I have a deep respect for the Islamic faith, and I hope this film will help my fellow Muslims. It evokes the core of our religion, a religion of reflection and personal interpretation. This is what is known in Sufism as "individual reasoning".




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Copyright 2002 Novita Rahman