Peter Cutts: Muslim women have some inspiring role models in our society

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The Independent Online

I am responsible for projecting a young musician into the limelight. My film, The Bass Player, gives voice to a Muslim woman who grew up in America's bible-belt and is currently studying for an MA in London.

I made it to examine the issue of Muslim women in positions of leadership. There seems to be so much talk of violence and bitterness associated with Islam. Conversations I have had with friends in recent months have invariably ended up in pointless discussions based primarily on hearsay and ignorance.

I thought if I could find a musician, I would be approaching the subject of Islam from a completely fresh angle, giving myself the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the faith and hopefully dispel the myth that music does not play a part in Islamic culture.

What I found in Salima Barday was a completely open woman who could reveal her story, reflecting on what it is to be Muslim and what part music plays in her identity. What drives Salima is her faith, her musicality and her sheer determination.

While making the film, not only did I begin to understand the spirituality that lies within Islam but realised that Salima's warm personality and musical skill make her stand out as a woman as well.

What excites me about documentary is the art of discovery. In my mind everyone is interesting, and if I can use my art to dig deep and explore the truth, then I have the chance to reveal a little more of what the world is about. In my film there is no commentary, we simply hear Salima telling her story and playing the double bass.

She was born into a close-knit home, and life was full of traditional expectations, but she chose instead to devote herself to music, and latterly to showing other girls that they have diverse life choices too. She chose an instrument as a young girl that was twice her size, mastered it and left her home in Atlanta to follow a musical career at the Juilliard School of Music in New York.

She shows you can have a broad outlook and still be inspired by faith.

The Bass Player will be shown at the Royal Society of Arts as part of Cineforum's Muslim Women: Visibility and Leadership conference today