New Netflix drama ‘Elite’ explores Islamophobia in Europe

A still from new Netflix drama 'Elite.' (Image supplied)
Updated 06 October 2018
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New Netflix drama ‘Elite’ explores Islamophobia in Europe

  • 'Elite' is based on a prestigious private school in Spain where three newly enrolled working-class students upset the status quo
  • The show highlights prejudices toward the working class, HIV and Islamophobia

MADRID: After the success of “Casa de Papel” (Money Heist), Netflix premiered its latest Spanish language teen drama, “Elite,” this week.
The story is based on a prestigious private school in Spain where three newly enrolled working-class students upset the status quo — among them, an ambitious Muslim-Palestinian girl.
As the plot unravels around spoilt, rich teens clashing with the newbies and the death of one of their classmates, the show — which has been compared to “13 Reasons Why,” “Gossip Girl” and “Pretty Little Liars” — highlights key issues, among them prejudice toward the working class, HIV and Islamophobia.
In the first episode, Nadia, played by Mina El-Hammani, is ordered to remove her headscarf by the principal or face expulsion in a scene that plays heavily on the debate over whether to ban headscarves in schools that has gripped Europe in recent years.
In 2004, France banned the wearing of all noticeable religious symbols in public schools, which affected those wearing headscarves in schools. Meanwhile, in 2016, a young Muslim woman missed a week of classes because she refused to remove her headscarf.
There was also widespread controversy when a primary school in London banned pupils from wearing the headscarf earlier this year only to later back down from the ban.
It is in this context that the show’s co-writers sought to use Nadia’s character to highlight the challenges some Muslims face when integrating into European society.
“We wanted to work with this character because it’s something that is happening in Europe. This is the reality that we see every day,” co-writer Dario Madrona told Arab News.
“(Nadia) reflected the idea of what Muslims have to face in Europe every day. Because you are part of a different culture, you don’t know if you can integrate. People look at you funny sometimes,” he added.
During the series, Nadia is also faced with hateful comments from her fellow classmate Lu, played Danna Paola, who refers to her as “Taliban.

 

 

Nadia’s brother, Omar, played by Omar Ayuso, faces his own challenges in the show. In one episode he his confronted by his friend Samuel, played by Itzan Escamilla, about his drug dealing.

Samuel advises Omar to join him at the restaurant where he works, to which Omar reminds him that although they both handed in their resumes, only Samuel received a call back.
Aside from Islamophobia and ethnic discrimination, the show also explores the identity crisis some teenagers go through in high school.
El-Hammani explained that, like Nadia, she comes from a Muslim background but struggles with the culture clash that comes with living in Spain.
“My parents are from Morocco, they are Muslims, so I know what it is like to live in a closed environment. Nadia is from Palestine so it’s different, but the same clash of cultures can be felt in both cases,” El-Hammani said.
“I have had a childhood that was very similar to what Nadia has lived (through). Although I was born in Spain, when I go back to Morocco I am a Spaniard and when I am in Spain I am the Moroccan girl. So, you always wonder, ‘Who am I?’”

FASTFACTS

Born in Spain, Mina El-Hammani is of Moroccan origins and began her acting career in 2014. She is known for Spanish TV shows “El Príncipe” and “Servir y proteger” and British TV series, “The State.”


Art collection of fugitive Indian billionaire to be auctioned

Updated 18 min 2 sec ago
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Art collection of fugitive Indian billionaire to be auctioned

  • Auctioneers say the sale is the first of its kind in the country
  • The sale in Mumbai of some 68 works is expected to fetch anywhere between $4.4 million and $7.3 million

MUMBAI: Indian tax authorities are hoping for a windfall with the auction on Tuesday of rare oil paintings that were once part of fugitive billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi’s collection and have been seized by the government.
Auctioneers say the sale is the first of its kind in a country where tax authorities have usually auctioned property, gold and luxury items, but not art.
After a court order allowing the auction to take place, tax authorities, who are pursuing Modi over the country’s largest bank fraud, appointed professional auction house Saffronart.
The sale in Mumbai of some 68 works is expected to fetch anywhere between $4.4 million and $7.3 million (300 million and 500 million rupees).
“Until a few years ago, the tax authorities really didn’t know the value of art,” said Farah Siddiqui, an art adviser who is advising clients eyeing Modi’s collection.
The 48-year-old Modi, whose diamonds have sparkled on Hollywood stars, is one of the primary accused in a $2 billion loan fraud at state-run Punjab National Bank. Modi denies the charges and believes they are politically motivated.
The auction comes just weeks before a national election and as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces pressure to bring back Nirav Modi (no relation), who fled the country last year and has been residing in the United Kingdom.
He was arrested last week by British authorities and remanded in custody after he appeared before a London court. India asked Britain last August to extradite Modi.
The auction includes works by Raja Ravi Varma, a 19th century painter considered among India’s finest, and V.S. Gaitonde, a modern artist known for his abstract and often monochromatic paintings.
“We believe that the collection’s intrinsic value will garner a positive response from collectors,” said Saffronart Chief Executive Dinesh Vazirani.
India Law Alliance, a law firm representing the company controlled by Modi that owns the artwork, said it was challenging the court order that allowed the auction. The case will be heard by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, a lawyer at the firm told Reuters.
Vijay Aggarwal, a lawyer for Modi, declined to comment.