As the first female Saudi journalist to work in Arab News’ all-male newsroom in the late 1980s, Faiza Ambah knows how it feels when the state and cultural norms force a woman to wear the hijab, even if she does not believe in it. But as much as she is against coercing Muslim women into hijab, she opposes forcing them to take it off.
“It’s a matter of principle. Either I have the freedom to cover my hair or not,” Ambah said. “If the West wants to criticize that women are forced into wearing the hijab, then they should also criticize that women are forced into taking it off. There is no difference.”
After making her mark in the world of international journalism, in 2009, Ambah shifted her focus on filmmaking. Her first film, “Mariam,” tells the story of a French-Muslim teenage girl who wants to wear the hijab to connect with her religion.
But the 2004 French law on secularity and religious symbols that banned hijab in public schools challenges Mariam’s sense of identity, choice and agency. The film won the jury’s prize at the Dubai Film Festival and was screened at the UNESCO in September last year.
MuslimGirl had the pleasure of interviewing Ambah about the making of “Mariam” and the politics of the hijab.