Muskurao, a short film by Ali Raza is a story of a Quran teacher, his young student Zara and her mother which conveys a thought provoking message.
Based in London, Raza is a filmmaker, digital content creator and activist who graduated from Royal Holloway and now runs his own production company which goes by ‘Romisa Films’. He’s an advocate for human rights and highlights issues such as domestic abuse, sexual harassment and minority rights. So it comes as no surprise that Muskarao illuminates the topic of sexual assault.
Muskarao exhibits the shrouded plight of Muslim students who are sexually assaulted by their religious clerics that wear their cloaks of piety with pride yet display hypocrisy at its highest level. There are numerous incidents such as this taking place in madrassahs across the country. The NGO Sahil reported 3,832 cases of child abuse in 2018 which was an 11 per cent increase from 2017 (3,445 cases). These incidents go unreported as victims are blackmailed and concertedly attempted to be silenced. Of course, not all clerics are like this, but statistics show high rates of sexual assaults taking place in Pakistan by religious teachers in madrassahs and in homes.
The film commences with the Quran teacher entering the home of his student Zara and greeting her mother. Referring to her as ‘behen jee’, he makes small talk and finds his way to the lounge where he sits and begins to read the Quran with Zara. Ali Raza displays progression in the film in a smooth way as not long after, the naive mother announces she has to run for some errands. With not another soul in the house, she entrusts the Quran teacher with responsibility for her daughter, tells Zara she “has to do everything the teacher says” and scurries away.
After finishing their lesson, Zara requests if she could kill time by painting to which the Quran teacher agrees. A shift in the Quran teachers’ expressions is evidently seen as he makes his way to the young girl and asks if she wants to play a ‘game’. He pledged that she’ll have a lot of fun. He’s seen removing his kufi hat and unbuttoning his shirt, creating an unsettling atmosphere and the scene ends.
Raza skilfully creates some moments which are eerie, gripping and likely to burrow under your skin. However, the moment after the assault where the girl is seen shaken is a bit unrelatable and maybe trivialises the impact of the assault. While Raza tries to portray the trauma and pain felt by the assault victim, it doesn’t come across in a natural way.
The Quran teacher is further seen silencing the shaken young girl and forcing her to place her hand on the Holy Book to swear she’ll never reveal the details of this ‘game’ to anyone. That’s also the moment where one of the Quran teachers friend drops in and finds out what happened. This scene put the message across of how such rapists’ actions are concealed via blackmail but it was all a bit too predictable. The first half of the film seemed to be more impactful however the second half did convey the message that Raza was aiming for.
Muskarao, in a nutshell displays the hypocrisy of religious clerics who promote the message of Islam yet indulge in immoral activities such as raping and sexually assaulting their students. This is a great message to convey in today’s society especially after we see so many incidents such as this take place in madrassahs across the country. These incidents go unreported as victims are blackmailed and concertedly attempted to be silenced. It’s important to raise awareness so every child can be protected and such beasts can be penalized.