LONDON: Islamophobia is “every bit as big an issue as racism,” UK screenwriter Jemima Khan has told Sky News ahead of the release of her new film “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”
The ex-wife of former Pakistani cricketer and Prime Minister Imran Khan spoke to the channel about the rom-com — inspired by her own life — which explores Islamophobia as well as the “pros and cons of both styles” of dating and arranged marriage, “whether it’s too much choice with apps” or “too little choice with arranged marriage.”
The main character of “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” Zoe, is a filmmaker. The release explores narratives surrounding Islamophobia on screen, as well as the subject of arranged marriage.
“It’s always the Pakistani who’s the terrorist or the suicide bomber or the fanatic. There’s that particular line (in the film) ... ‘We’ve got to leave the airport … We have to leave early because I need to leave time to be randomly selected’,” Jemima said.
“I’m aware from experience of traveling with my kids, particularly to America where we have to leave extra time in between any flight connections because they have Pakistani names that are not Anglicized — Sulaiman and Kasim Khan — they do get taken off and questioned in a way that I don’t.
“It’s hard to make a film where Muslims are the good guys in America … where they’re much more familiar with Muslims playing the baddies. Islamophobia I think is a real issue. I think it’s every bit as big an issue as racism.”
The late Princess Diana’s marriage to then-Prince Charles was “essentially arranged,” Jemima said, discussing the film’s other topic.
She added that arranged marriages are a cross-cultural phenomenon, discussing the high-profile marriage of Princess Diana — whom she enjoyed a close friendship with — and Charles.
“Their marriage was essentially arranged. It used to happen here, even with our royal family. I know it can often seem like a really alien concept, but most marriages even in the world today are arranged if you look at the global population,” Jemima said.
“It wasn’t so long ago that it was kind of the norm even in the UK. There’s a real issue where arranged marriage keeps getting conflated with forced marriage.
“As I get older, I think, if I had parents who could have agreed — and were functional and good at these things — I definitely could have benefited from being introduced to suitable candidates.”
Her relocation to Pakistan aged 21 dispelled some of her beliefs surrounding arranged marriage, she told Sky News, adding that she had “quite a standard, fairly negative idea about arranged marriage and how it fits into the modern world.”
She saw “very successful and happy arranged marriages,” but noticed that they failed to be represented in mass media.
“What’s Love Got To Do With It?” releases on Feb. 24 in the UK.