Banned docu 'Among The Believers' privately screened in Karachi

Banned docu 'Among The Believers' privately screened in Karachi

Mo Naqvi's documentary on the Lal Masjid was banned by the CBFC for 'projecting a negative image of Pakistan'
Updated 06 May, 2016

If you don’t like us then arrest us. Shoot us. But if you think you can change us then forget about it, said Maulana Abdul Aziz staring into the camera in an interview with Mohammad Ali Naqvi and his team for the documentary Among the Believers, which was screened privately in the city on Thursday evening.

Maulana Aziz’s words left a chill in the room as the audience gathered to an invite-only event and watched an unsettling and eye-opening exploration into the expansion of the Red Mosque’s madressah network in Pakistan.

On April 29, the film was banned in a notification issued by the Central Board of Film Censors citing that the film projected a negative image of Pakistan in the context of the ongoing fight against extremism and terrorism.

Also read: Pakistan's banning spree continues as two documentaries axed for 'negative portrayals'

The co-director of the film, Mr Naqvi, claims these objections are unfounded.

According to Mr Naqvi, the documentary, first screened at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, took nearly six years to complete. “I am happy to be here,” he said, adding that this was the first time a film of his was being screened in the country. Two of his other films, one on street children and another on Mukhtaran Mai did not make it here.

The film also looks at the life of two young students — Talha and a girl who ran away from the madressah - Photo courtesy
The film also looks at the life of two young students — Talha and a girl who ran away from the madressah - Photo courtesy

“It’s exhilarating,” he said. “The government thinks we portray a negative image of Pakistan so we decided to have a private screening to give people the opportunity to make their own judgement.”

Among the Believers opens with a meeting with Maulana Aziz in 2009. Surrounded by armed guards, the maulana makes his way to the Red Mosque where people greet him and some kiss his hand. Throughout the documentary, the maulana is surround by armed gunmen and followers.

In the first interview, Maulana Aziz introduces a young boy whose father has just left his mother. The madressah took him in and started to look after his religious education. When asked by Maulana Aziz what he wants to be when he grows up, the child shouts: “A mujahid!”

Mr Naqvi’s film follows Maulana Aziz’s personal quest to impose a strict version of Sharia law in Pakistan. Footage from one of the sermons he gave between 2007 to 2013 shows his telling a hall full of men that “progressive thought is dying”, asking them “will you go to jail for Islam?”. His primary weapon is his expanding network of madressahs, which offer free food and lodging for children, men and women.

A contemporary narrative is provided in the form of Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, a nuclear physicist and activist who explains what is being taught at madressahs and seminaries.

To examine Maulana Aziz’s narrative, the film also looks at the life of two young students — Talha and a girl who ran away from the madressah, who are pawns in his ideological war.

Originally published in Dawn, May 6th, 2016


Mosa May 06, 2016 11:14am
Why this man is not yet arrested?
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Qamar Valliani May 06, 2016 11:23am
All the seminaries, madressas etc should be banned before it become difficult.
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Arif Maroof May 06, 2016 12:20pm
Kindly also make a movie on Panama Leaks and corruption of Elite classes.
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Thoroughthinker May 06, 2016 12:30pm
This man Lal Masjid cleric is much bigger danger than Osama b L because he enslaves the nascent minds of children of forming-age, for advancing his own agenda.
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Sa May 06, 2016 03:35pm
@Arif Maroof this man IS the elite class that can get away with anything.
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Kabeer May 06, 2016 05:25pm
Screening a film based on real issues will tarnish the image of Pakistan WoW what a logic
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Kabeer May 06, 2016 05:26pm
@Arif Maroof Ashir Azeem had made one on corruption and it has also been banned
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A A May 06, 2016 06:49pm
Abdebate between Maulana Aziz and Dr Hoodbhoy would have been the peak of this documentary.
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Proust May 06, 2016 09:41pm
So why did the girl and the boy ran away? Their perspective should have been included in the article since we will not be able to watch this film.
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Yet another Indian Sri1 May 07, 2016 07:47pm
@Arif Maroof "Kindly also make a movie on Panama Leaks and corruption of Elite classes." Why? Because both those issues are equal? Are they even interlinked? Why should the special case of fanatical indoctrination of impressionable kids be equalised with normal political corruption endemic to any developing bureaucracy?? First get your priorities straight before opening your trap.
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