Between God and I

Between God and I

“Everybody who does this kind of butchering in the world is a Wahhabi,” says the voice. “It’s a fact.”

At first the opening shot of the documentary Between God and I appears to be one of awful beauty: a corpse floats on a river as the sun illuminates the skies and the glistening waters.

But the camera goes closer, zooms in and the “corpse” is merely a female form floating. She blinks. She’s alive.

A voiceover gives an account of terrorist attacks around the continent. Boko Haram’s bloody campaign in Nigeria. Al-Shabaab’s killings in Sudan. And others. But a female voiceover then says that the terrorist groups known around the world are not representative of Islam.

“Everybody who does this kind of butchering in the world is a Wahhabi,” says the voice. “It’s a fact.”
It is as though, visually wrong-footing the audience has been teleported to the film’s vocals: what might be presented as a given might be only half the story.

The floating body belongs to Karen, a young Muslim woman from Mozambique. The film follows her as she lives her life, discussing who might or might not be gay, buying clothes and, at one point, getting questioned about her not wearing a hijab at home. Karen believes Islam is the ideal religion but that the elders of the religion in her country, Mozambique, have conflated the religion with the tradition of their ethnic groups. This is corroborated when one of the persons she speaks to tells her that the Muslim Council is against elaborate funeral parties but that hasn’t stopped Mozambique’s elders from demanding exactly that before their death.

“Mozambicans just carry the name, but they don’t have Islam in their hearts,” another young girl says.

Karen’s project—and perhaps director Yara Costa’s—is clear: Islam needs to be rescued from a few bad eggs.

Unfortunately, that is an argument that is hard to sell when those bad eggs are the most visible in the crate. So far, they seem to also have better chances of hatching into full-scale problems.

This means that while the Between God and I project has its charms, especially given the youthful conviction of its protagonist, it isn’t a project that has plausible hopes of surviving outside of the Muslims who already think of the religion as incredibly suitable for mankind. The rest of mankind would always have their doubts as to its supposedly peaceful nature.

Between God and I is showing at the 2019 AFRIFF and is scheduled to screen on Tuesday, 12th November 2019
Time: 2pm Screen: Filmhouse Landmark, Screen 4

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