Among The Believers: An Insight into Pakistani Madrassas

among_the_believers, documentary, film, lollywoodAmong The Believers Documentary Review

The focus of a new-fangled documentary on the forefront, Among the Believers, is a young 12 years old lad – Talha. This particular film investigates the renowned religious school ‘Lal Masjid’, situated in Islamabad. Similar to other kids studying at the school, Talha comes from an underprivileged background.

What’s The Story of Among the Believers?

Aziz, a religious priest, announces a rebellion in opposition to the regime for enforcing his perceived Islamic set of laws in the state. In reply to his revolt, the government strikes back. They destroy his institution and, in that course, more than 150 students also get killed. The documentary discusses the narratives of his students in the seminary, and signifies the consequences of fanaticism and poverty in a state.

Furthermore, the documentary focuses its attention on Talha, who shares his imaginings of turning out to be a jihadi cleric. When Talha’s father comes to the school for taking his son back home, Talha declines sternly. Additionally, the film depicts another 12 years old little girl of the school, Zarina, who flees from the madrassa (religious school) and gets admitted into a secular institute, however, unfortunately, her poor financial conditions compel her to leave the school and, thus, end her educational dreams for good.

The story proceeds as we see Talha’s father realizing the grave mistake he made of sending him under the supervision of religious extremist. Talha’s father says that he sent his lad to the capital for his son’s enhanced schooling and that he was not conscious of the doctrines being inculcated in him. He further says that he did not bother much about it as well.

The Premiere

Among the believers was selected for premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival at Manhattan. The directions for this piece of work were provided by Hemal Trivedi (from India) and Mohammed Ali Naqvi (from Pakistan). The chronicle documents a slow transformation of Talha from being a regular kid with love for Pakistani cricket, into an unyielding and serious religious fundamentalist.

The Message Behind Among the Believers

Story of Talha represents an extensive trend occurring in Pakistan, where a proper economic infrastructure has not been formulated for the underprivileged class of the state. In such a situation, where there are no reforming public institutions for masses, the religious schools have occupied a hold instead. These institutes come with a radical and rebellious bent of mind and are destroying the innocence of many little kids similar to Talha.

Such schools are seen as a good option by the deprived class because they offer free rooming, boarding, food supply and education to the kids. This facility is not otherwise available to these families, unfortunately. And, thus, the gap has been filled by such inadequately-checked fanatic religious institutes all over the country.

Although, there is Edhi Foundation, a non-profit organization running in the country successfully, for providing boarding, educational and medical facilities to the underprivileged yet this effort is not enough for the whole state. We regularly see children begging in the streets or working in factories or selling products on the road in the country.

A Thought-Provoking Insight

Thus, this documentary displays that Pakistan is a nation lying between two opposite perspectives – one is the extremist doctrine and the other is the progressive reformation, as it compares the persona of Abdul Aziz Ghazi (part of the religious extremism) with that of a nuclear physicist, Pervez Hoodbhoy (part of the liberal educated community).

Concluding Scenario of the Documentary

The final scenarios of the documentary depict the local school in Zarina’s village being reopened by the owner, Tariq. He introduces computers in the classrooms of the institute and concludes that if the new generation will advance and get proper education, then our whole nation will progress and get skilled. Thus, the movie concludes on a positive note for the audience to do as much as they can, in their own capacity, for the constructive development of their homeland.

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The House

Reporting from the editorial team @HOPES