Yesterday, we introduced you to Telemundo’s El Clon, its premise, and two of its prominent female characters. Today, we’ll look at two more female characters, some of their male counterparts, and examine how the telenovela uses the Qur’an.
Zoraida is the maid in Uncle Ali’s house. She is responsible for protecting Latiffa and Jade, and in doing so she is consequently assigned the task of guarding Uncle Ali’s honor. When Jade is suspected of losing her virginity, Ali severely reprimands Zoraida, saying that she is responsible for knowing what goes on in the house and for being his “ears and eyes.” She sympathizes with Jade’s situation at times, but as Ali’s right-hand woman she constantly warns Jade that she must accept “what Allah has written” for her and that going against her Uncle is a “great sin.”
Zoraida is only empowered in the sense that she is given authority over the other women in the house. In the clip above, we see Ali berating her for not “controlling” Jade.
Zoradia’s empowerment is analogous to the way Muslim women were sometimes empowered within colonized societies: when the honor of the men or of the society is threatened (usually by the “West”), women are mobilized as cultural signifiers. Women are compelled to be reminder of what is halal (permissible) and what is haram (forbidden), and to preserve or safeguard cultural values.
However, they are not empowered outside of this role and the ability to utilize this power is regulated by the man. We are reminded of this every time Zoraida is reprimanded for not being able to control Latiffa and Jade. Ali accepts Zoraida’s authority when protecting the family honor, but she is easily put back in her place with a warning that it is ultimately Ali who “allows” her to exercise authority over the women.