“Delfts blauw meets hijab” is the title of a new Dutch documentary analyzing the experience of female Dutch converts to Islam and, at the same time, exploring the compatibility (or lack of) between so-called “Dutch identity” with “Muslim values.” The documentary, created by Janina Pigaht, follows the experience of young Dutch women, Laura, Marion, Djamila, Anne-Marie and Elsa, who chose Islam in spite of an increasingly anti-Muslim sentiment in society.
As the director herself says, “Sometimes I think conversion is the new homosexuality. You’re better off saying at the kitchen table that you are a lesbian rather than a Muslim. “Topics from hijab, to family to Dutch identity are addressed in the preview clips. Laura, for example, in speaking about hijab, mentions that it is something she “always wanted to wear” and wondered what was stopping her from wearing it. For her, it was first her parents, then her job, then “the fears [she carried in herself].”
Marion (the tagline to her video reads, “Be who you are, and be accepted for who you are”) is asked, “Have you become Moroccan?” Anne-Marie’s clip was the most intriguing for me as she was “the non-hijabi.” Mentioning that people judge you when you wear hijab, the narrator asks if that played a role in her not wearing it any more, to which she agreed, and then said, ‘It is too much of an obstacle…that I felt, ‘I can do more than you think.’”
In her clip, Djamila, who coordinates a women’s shelter for converts called Stichting Taqwa, touches on the idea that Dutch families are against their daughters who convert. She said that the converts she met were “always complaining” about their home lives. As such, she decided to help these girls, as their website says, with temporary shelter and or mediation. Elsa’s (a UN youth representative) experience is unique in that she is a portrait of multicultural Holland: part Dominican, part Dutch and a Muslim convert.
In Europe, much of the press and public discourse about Muslim women rarely involves dialogue with the women themselves, in their own voices. In the politically charged post-Wilders landscape, Pigaht’s documentary is a welcome and crucial voice of Dutch Muslim women. Video excerpts (subtitled in English) from the documentary are available on the film’s website.