Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Norhayati Kaprawi & Ibu Nyai

Today theSun published my interview with Norhayati Kaprawi  who has done documentary on a very amazing Indonesian woman Read more here 

Headline: A Woman Leads The Way  
By Bissme S

NYAI MASRIYAH AMVA was a blissful housewife nine years ago. Her husband ran a religious Islamic boarding school called Pondok Kebon Jambu Al-Islamy, in Cirebon, West Java, Indonesia. When he died, Nyai gamely took over the administration of his religious school. It was not an easy task heading a religious school with 700 male and 500 female students. 
Her story has inspired Norhayati Kaprawi to do a documentary on her. Bangkit Dari Bayangan (right and far right) chronicles the many challenges faced by this Indonesian woman known as Ibu Nyai to her students. 
 “It is extremely rare for a woman to be a leader of a traditional Islamic school,” says Norhayati. 
“Some Islamic scholars claimed that Islam does not encourage women to be leaders. They believe that only men should lead, and women should just follow. 
“They [claim] that women are far too emotional and less capable of handling the responsibility of leadership.” 
Norhayati believes Ibu Nyai has certainly proved these scholars wrong. 
“She [has shown her critics that she] is a capable leader. The school did not fail under her. In fact, it became more prosperous under her administration. In this documentary, I want to show how female leadership is possible in Islam.” 
One of biggest challenges faced by Ibu Nyai when she first took over the running of the school was from the parents of the students. Many of them threatened to pull their children out after realising she was the one running the show. 
“These parents had the impression that an ustazah (female religious leader) would not be able to run a religious school as efficiently as an ustaz (male religious leader),” says Norhayati. 
In the end, Ibu Nyai proved them wrong. The determined woman told Norhayati that she believes that if God can bestowed greatness to a man like her husband, then God can surely grant the same greatness to a woman like her. 
“She believes God loves everyone equally, and that God does not discriminate,” says Norhayati. 
The director agrees, pointing out that if we examine the Islamic teachings, we will realise that Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadija was herself a successful businesswoman, and that the prophet worked for her before he married her. 
“In the modern context, Khadija could have been easily considered the CEO of a successful company,” she says, adding that this shows “female leadership in Islam existed a long time ago”. 
At a recent preview of Bangkit Dari Bayangan, one scene stood out. It shows Ibu Nyai teaching her male students about respect for women as she says women and men have equal status in society. “Not many ustazah will discuss gender equality with her students,” says Norhayati. 
Another impressive scene shows Ibu Nyai going to a meeting for ustaz who run religious schools. Most of the men there welcome her with open arms and as their equal. But there are still some male religious leaders who make her feel inferior for being a woman and totally ignore her successful track record. Instead of lashing back at her critics, Ibu Nyai takes their sarcasm in stride and prefers to focus her energy on making her school better. 
When asked what inspires her most about Ibu Nyai, Norhayati says: “She is willing to listen to people’s opinions. She always says that ‘mendengar itu tidak berdosa’ (to listen to people’s opinion is not a sin).” 
Currently, Norhayati is working on a new documentary that will showcase the impact of syariah law (Islamic law) on two women, one a non-Muslim and the other a Muslim. The non-Muslim in the documentary is M. Indira Gandhi who is currently involved in a controversial custody battle with her exhusband, K. Pathmanathan, who had embraced Islam and then converted their three children without her knowledge. She fought for custody of the children and also against their conversion in the civil court while her husband took his fight to the syariah court. As for the Muslim woman in the documentary, Norhayati prefers to keep her identity a secret for the time being. 
The director is also working on several short animations that will give a better perspective of Islam and syariah laws. 
Asked why religion seems to be a prevalent issue in most of her documentaries, Norhayati says: “The interpretation of Islam should not be monopolised by the conservatives only. Islam is close to my heart. I do not believe Islam is oppressive. I do not believe Islam is violent. That is what I want to show in my documentaries.”

The film maker

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