Entertainment Magazine

Religion is Cancer

Posted on the 22 June 2024 by Sjhoneywell
Film: Four Daughters
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on basement television. Religion is Cancer

My poiion on religion has not been a secret on this blog. I mention it when it’s relevant, because my opinions are always going to come from a position of someone who is not merely irreligious but who is anti-religious. Movies that glorify religion are going to naturally be viewed by me in a particular way. This is also going to be true of movies that are critical of religion. Such is the case with Four Daughters (also called Les Filles d’Olfa), a movie that is very much centered in the damage that religion can cause.

It’s worth saying that when it comes to religious belief, I am an equal opportunity heretic. I a, probably more concerned on a day-to-day basis with Christian nonsense than any other religion, but that’s because I live in the U.S. where Christian nationalism is a genuine threat and a genuine existential threat. But on a worldwide scope, Islam is almost certainly a much more serious problem. Four Daughers is concerned with Islamic extremism, and specifically with ISIS, which makes it a difficult topic. No one, or almost no one, is going to go into this film completely unbiased.

The film is a combination of documentary and reenactments of past events of Olfa Hamrouni (played by herself as well as actress Hind Sabri) and her four daughters. Her two youngest daughters, Eya and Tayssir Chikhaoui, play themselves. Her older daughters, Ghofrane and Rahma, are played by Ichrak Matar and Nour Karoui respectively. The various men in the reenactments are all played by Majd Mastoura.

The film starts by introducing us to the idea of how the film is going to work. We’ll talk to Olfa, Eya, and Tayssir for much of the movie, but the actresses will step in for reenactments, with Hind Sabri taking part for scenes that are too difficult for Olfa to relive. A lot of the initial scenes are talking about the past and getting acquainted with everyone. It’s soon evident that Olfa harbors a number of fundamentalist religious ideas. She is uncomfortable with a lot of how her daughters act and doesn’t seem to mind using some fairly intense slurs against them, most commonly calling them “whores.”

As the film continues, we start to learn more and more about Ghofrane and Rahma. Rebellious in their youth, they were frequently in trouble for their behavior, especially from Olfa. Eventually, they were confronted by extremists, who converted them to a much more radical version of Islam. They took to wearing both the hijab and niqab, with Rahma radicalized to the point where she started wearing an eye veil to cover herself completely. Both sisters used guilt, shame, and fear to force their mother and younger sister to wear the hijab and niqab, too. Ultimately, this culminates in first Ghofrane and then Rahma leaving Tunisia for Libya, where they join IS to fight for the Islamic state. Effectively, the two sisters have disappeared, but their fates are known—both have been arrested by Libyan forces and are currently imprisoned. Their mother has unsuccessfully pled with the Tunisian government to extradite them to bring them back to Tunisia.

Four Daughters is sobering specifically because of the religious abuse that is on display. Multiple times in the course of the film we are told that Ghofrane and Rahma used arguments based on fear to frighten their family into their beliefs. It’s not an uncommon religious tactic to use overwhelming fear tactics to bolster a belief that has no actual proof. It’s no different than the fire and brimstone preaching of your average Southern Baptist tent revival preacher. The difference comes from what we grow up with. If you grow up in a Christian-dominated area and are raised with any churching, the threats of the Christian Hell seem somehow more plausible while the threats of the Islamic Hell seem silly. But for those raised in an Islamic society, the threats seem real.

This is the danger of religion. I’m not a huge fan of Sam Harris, but a comment of his states the problem precisely: “The problem with religion, because it's been sheltered from criticism, is that it allows people to believe en masse what only idiots or lunatics could believe in isolation.” He goes on to say that a person who believes that mumbling Latin phrases over their pancakes will turn them into the body of Elvis is a lunatic, but a person who believes the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus is just a Catholic.

It's hard not to see this when looking at Four Daughters. The tragedy here is not just that this happens to girls in Islamic states and for those people wishing to start up a worldwide caliphate. The additional tragedy is that so many people want to bring effectively the same thing here, wrapped in the American flag and carrying the Bible.

Four Daughters is a warning, and it’s one everyone should heed.

Why to watch Four Daughters: It feels like this is an easy story to tell about religion in general.
Why not to watch: You don’t want to confront the reality that religion is a cancer.

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