Film puts spotlight on women of Islam | Pakistani immigrant hopes to pierce veil
The San Diego Union - Tribune; San Diego, Calif.; Mar 23, 2002; Brian E. Clark;

Abstract:
[Farheen Pasha Umar] said her film plans took on special meaning after Sept. 11 and the U.S. efforts to overthrow the Taliban regime and uproot Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda forces from Afghanistan. She described the Taliban's brand of Islam as "harsh and extreme," especially toward women.

Umar lives in Rancho Bernardo with her husband. She has been back to Pakistan several times in the past year, filming many hours of interviews with women in refugee camps, as well as others in all walks of life. Most of the camps are along the Afghan border and are filled with people who fled nearly two decades of war. Because people on both sides of the border in that region are predominantly Pashtun, they share a similar culture.

1 PIC; Farheen Pasha Umar of Rancho Bernardo edited footage Thursday for a documentary film on the women of Islam. Umar, whose goal is "to educate the U.S. public about the issues facing Muslim women," said her film plans took on special meaning after Sept. 11.; Credit: Scott Linnett / Union-Tribune

Full Text:

Copyright SAN DIEGO UNION TRIBUNE PUBLISHING COMPANY Mar 23, 2002

RANCHO BERNARDO -- Westerners who can't see beyond the veils worn by many Muslim women will never understand their cultures or their often impoverished lives, says Farheen Pasha Umar, a Pakistani woman who is making a film on the women of Islam.

"It is far too simplistic to think that all the problems they face will go away if the veil is removed," said Umar, 30, who hopes her as-yet-unfinished documentary will be shown on public television.

Umar grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Karachi and never had to wear any kind of head or face covering. Her parents were originally from India, but fled after that country was partitioned in 1947.

Umar, who has a master's degree in business administration from the University of San Diego, said she has long been interested in filmmaking. But it was not widely taught in her native country, so she pursued degrees in business and marketing.

"Now, rather than selling things, it is my goal to educate the U.S. public about the issues facing Muslim women," said Umar, who arrived in San Diego five years ago. "And truth be told, they are many of the same troubles women must deal with anywhere in the Third World."

Umar said her film plans took on special meaning after Sept. 11 and the U.S. efforts to overthrow the Taliban regime and uproot Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda forces from Afghanistan. She described the Taliban's brand of Islam as "harsh and extreme," especially toward women.

"But you have to put them in context," she said. "They came to power at a time of war and chaos when there were many atrocities, including rapes, inflicted on women. They established law and order, and were at first welcomed. Then they went too far."

Umar lives in Rancho Bernardo with her husband. She has been back to Pakistan several times in the past year, filming many hours of interviews with women in refugee camps, as well as others in all walks of life. Most of the camps are along the Afghan border and are filled with people who fled nearly two decades of war. Because people on both sides of the border in that region are predominantly Pashtun, they share a similar culture.

"In some ways, Pakistan is a microcosm of the Islamic world," she said. "You have all different kinds of women, from doctors down to those who are barely surviving. Though they follow the same faith, their lives couldn't be more different."

Umar praised President Bush for seeking out Islamic clergy after Sept. 11, going to mosques and warning the American public against taking out frustrations on Muslims. "But like many in this part of the world, he still seemed to think that the main problem for Afghan women is the veil or the burqa. But it isn't," she said.

Umar said she may need to return to Pakistan for more filming. She said she needs about $50,000 to complete her project, which she has paid for largely by herself so far.

Brian Clark: (760) 752-6761; brian.clark@uniontrib.com

[Illustration]
1 PIC; Caption: Farheen Pasha Umar of Rancho Bernardo edited footage Thursday for a documentary film on the women of Islam. Umar, whose goal is "to educate the U.S. public about the issues facing Muslim women," said her film plans took on special meaning after Sept. 11.; Credit: Scott Linnett / Union-Tribune

Credit: STAFF WRITER

 

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