Light in Her Eyes, The

Julia Meltzer

In Syria, imams believe that women should be at home and that it is their fate to give birth and take care of family members. Houda al-Habash, the inspiring director of the Al-Zahra Koran School in Damascus, provides teenage girls with a different doctrine of the Koran.

In Syria, the mosque is a place for men; women practice their faith at home. On TV, conservative clerics stress that women belong at home – reproducing and taking care of their families. Al-Habash promotes a more modern approach to the position of women. She drives a car, supervises other mosques, and counsels women in domestic conflicts. By teaching her students to interpret the Koran, she gives them strength and self-respect. In small groups, women and girls debate their place in society. They include Al-Habash's daughter, who says, ‘You can't just tell us it's a religious rule. Let us interpret it!’ We follow Houda Al-Habash and her students over the three-month summer course, as she guides her girls with a firm hand, tells them the difference between religion and extremism, and shows how she can balance family life with the pressure of running a busy school. A rare look into why women are choosing Islam in today's modern world.


Julia Meltzer
Syria, United States
87 minutes
cultural rights & traditions, education & schools, religion, women & gender