Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 13, 2018

The Judge

Filed under: Film,Palestine — louisproyect @ 10:17 pm

Like Pavlov’s dogs going into a salivating frenzy at the sound of a bell, nothing has the same effect on Islamophobes, including the Assadist left, except the word sharia. For them, this means ISIS trying people for smoking and then handing out a death sentence.

The documentary “The Judge” that opens today at Cinema Village in NYC will not only provide a different perspective on sharia law but on the social dynamics of Palestinians living in the West Bank. The judge referred to in the title is Kholoud al-Faqih, the first woman to serve on a sharia court in the Middle East. In the West Bank, there are two types of courts. One is a civil court that tries criminal cases such as theft, assaults, etc. The sharia court functions in the same way that family court functions in the USA and other secular societies. We see Khouloud weighing in on divorces, child custody, alimony payments, etc., all within the framework of Quranic scriptures. In a way, it reminds me of how Hasidic courts settle such matters in Brooklyn except that Hasidic society is far more patriarchal than the West Bank Islamic world. Indeed, a woman would never been selected to serve on a Hasidic court.

It was not that easy in the West Bank either. In 2009, Kholoud al-Faqih and another woman trained as a lawyer were appointed to serve by Sheikh Tayseer al-Tamimi after she pressured him to see beyond centuries old prejudices that had nothing to do with Islam. Al-Tamimi is interviewed throughout the film and comes across as an enlightened soul. Although the film gives no background on him, it is worth mentioning that he was a reformer across the board. He was drawn into a conflict with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for changing the sharia codes that allowed a woman to be married once she reached puberty. He thought that 18 should be the legal age. In keeping with the new directions represented by al-Tamini, al-Faqih’s judgements are completely opposed to what you’d expect from Islamic courts. In her own faith-based manner, al-Faqih is a strong feminist who will not allow patriarchal attitudes seep into her hearings.

Al-Tamimi was a hardline nationalist appointed by Arafat in 1994. It is not surprising that after he was replaced by a man selected by Mahmoud Abbas who ruled that women would no longer sit in judgement in sharia courts but only handle peripheral administrative tasks.

“The Judge” is very minimal in cinematic terms and mostly depicts Kholoud Al-Faqih at work and at home making dinner for her family as director Erika Cohn follows her about with a hand-held camera. Cohn met Kholoud Al-Faqih when the director was studying Islamic feminism and teaching film in Israel and Palestine. Her work is very important for  understanding Palestinian society today and where the progressive strands of renewal might be gestating.


  1. “He was drawn into a conflict with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem for changing the sharia codes that allowed a woman to be married once she reached puberty. He thought that 18 should be the legal age.”

    Very interesting to learn about this. I guess al-Tamimi would also be drawn into conflict with Iranian mullahs, since they have deemed it legal for women to be married off at the age of 13 (it is 15 for men). How enlightened our mullahs are! God loves them!

    Comment by Reza — April 13, 2018 @ 11:39 pm

  2. This documentary had its first public showing in San Francisco, presented by Golden Thread Productions (goldenthread.org), a theatre company focused on plays from or about the Middle East. If you are interested in these themes, check out Golden Thread’s offerings.

    Comment by Torange Yeghiazarian — April 14, 2018 @ 12:29 am

  3. Creaming your pants yet Louis?

    Comment by Bill J. — April 14, 2018 @ 1:17 am

  4. Bill, I assume you are talking about Trump bombing Syria. If you think that debunking Assad’s claims of a false flag is tantamount to backing Trump, you are a sick little bastard incapable of having a serious debate. I am totally opposed to American intervention and have been since the Vietnam war. What have you ever done to oppose imperialist intervention? What is your political past besides trolling this blog?

    Comment by louisproyect — April 14, 2018 @ 1:45 am

  5. Could you please provide a link from where I can download this?

    Comment by adreamy1 — April 14, 2018 @ 2:29 am

  6. Reblogged this on A Paradise Of Expressions...

    Comment by adreamy1 — April 14, 2018 @ 2:30 am

  7. It is not downloadable yet. It probably will be in 6 months or so.

    Comment by louisproyect — April 14, 2018 @ 12:09 pm

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