muslima: muslim women’s art & voicesPosted: May 27, 2013
Two words: Muslim women. You already have an image in your head, don’t you?
In our attempt to “save” Muslim women, we (non-Muslim Westerners) have stolen from them their right to define themselves on their own terms. We have carved in stone an image that makes us feel righteous and powerful and just, and we guard this sculpture like it’s the holy grail. Meanwhile, drones shatter villages across Pakistan.
There are 800 million Muslim women and girls around the world. But in the media and in our minds, they have all become one–covered, oppressed, silenced.
Thankfully, the International Museum of Women, which organizes multimedia online exhibitions celebrating women, launched Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices. The show boasts a diverse array of views and narratives through multiple mediums, showing the rest of the world that there’s much more to a Muslim woman than the hijab.
In her moving curator’s statement, Samina Ali writes:
In Arabic, muslima is used to indicate a woman who believes in God and upholds God’s values, such as prayer, charity, fasting, kindness and mercy. In the way I’ve written muslima here, it’s singular: one female. This is intentional.
In a world that’s grown accustomed to denying the rich diversity of Muslim women’s thoughts and contributions, of erasing their complex differences and reducing them into an easy stereotype of an oppressed group, into lesser human beings, this exhibition title highlights the singular form of muslima in order to celebrate the unique passions and accomplishments of each and every Muslim woman who contributes.
I once asked Sussan Tahmasebi what US women could do to support women in countries like Iran, where she works for peace and gender justice. She said (to paraphrase): don’t speak for us; help us be heard.
Encourage your friends and family to visit this innovative museum without walls. Talk about some of your favorite pieces. And join Muslima’s “Speak up! Listen up!” campaign to commit to amplifying the voices of Muslim women and changing the conversation.
If you’d like to learn about Islamic feminism or the ways in which Islam and feminism intersect, or if you want to do more to support Muslim women, check out these resources:
- Metis’ Blog on Muslim Feminists
- “Bridging the Disconnect: Unveiling the Hijab and Islamic Feminism,” from Girl Speak, a literary and art magazine for girls
- “Who says I can’t be a Muslim feminist?”
- “Defining Muslim Feminist Politics through Indigenous Solidarity Activism”
- The work of scholar Jasbir Puar
- Muslimah Media Watch
- Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan
- Women Living Under Muslim Laws
- “The Light in Her Eyes” in Context: Muslim Women’s Movements (This site for the PBS film also has action steps for combating negative stereotypes.)