MADRID – Elite, a new Spanish drama which premiered on Netflix this week, explores prejudice and Islamophobia targeting Muslim students in high school.
“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, speaking about the character of the Muslim student Nadia.
Nadia, played by Mina El-Hammani, is an ambitious Muslim-Palestinian girl.
The story is based on a prestigious private school in Spain where three newly enrolled working-class students upset the status quo.
In the first episode, Nadia is ordered to remove her hijab by the principal or face expulsion in a scene that plays heavily on the debate over whether to ban hijab in schools that has gripped Europe in recent years.
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.
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) 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,” Madrona added.
Discrimination At Large
The challenges facing Muslims in Europe are not limited to schools and hijab, as the show highlighted discrimination at workplaces.
In the series, Nadia’s brother, Omar, played by Omar Ayuso, faces a challenge to find work, where his friend Samuel was accepted and Omar rejected though they submitted their resumes together.
Aside from Islamophobia and ethnic discrimination, the show also explores the identity crisis some teenagers go through in high school.
“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, adding that she has been facing Nadia’s challenges during her real life.
“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?’”
According to the Union of Islamic communities (UCIDE), Muslims make up 3.8 percent of the Spanish population, 40 percent are Spanish and the remaining 60 percent are immigrants.
Muslims in Spain are mostly from Morocco although there is a significant presence of Pakistanis and Senegalese Muslims in cities like Barcelona, Valencia, and Logrono.