These are two graphics from The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society by The Pew Forum On Religion & Public Life. The study provides interesting regional and cultural differences among the world Muslim population.
“One of the most remarkable and lasting war stories is that the war on terror is being waged in order to protect women’s rights and liberate Muslim and Arab women in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Thinking back to the initiation of war in Afghanistan, images of burqa-clad Afghan women represented as victims of ‘barbaric, unshaven, cave-dwelling fundamentalists’ dominated the media and provided the basis for the Bush administration’s rhetoric that this war would liberate Afghan women. A similar pattern emerged in Iraq as gendered and racialized representations of the war were used to convince Americans that the invasion of Iraq would liberate the Iraqi people from a brutal and misogynist dictator. This engendering of the war not only constructs the ‘victimized women to be rescued’, but also their ‘hyper-masculine rescuers’ and ‘cowardly oppressors’.
For many feminists, this war story about women’s liberation served to camouflage the Bush administration’s past and present record on women’s rights. For example, before 9/11 the Bush administration was engaged in political negotiations with the Taliban about the development of oil pipelines even though they were aware of the Taliban’s treatment of Afghan women… There [were] also emerging reports that Coalition forces have sexually assaulted imprisoned Iraqi women as well as female coalition soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq… In the aftermath of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, women’s experiences of the war on terror continue to stand in stark opposition to the stories of liberation told by the Bush administration.
Moreover, this war story about women’s liberation deflects attention away from the violence that women, in particular, suffer as a result of war, including sexual violence, loss of male family members, and the burden of caring for the young, old, and injured. It also justifies violence in the name of women, implicating all women in the direct and indirect violence and destruction that occur form war… As Katharine Viner correctly notes, “…[F]eminists are left with the fact that their own beliefs are being trotted out by world leaders in the name of a cause which does nothing for the women it pretends to protect. This is nothing less than an abuse of feminism, one which will further discredit the cause of western feminism in the Arab world… (Viner, 2002).” —(9-11, Hunt and Rygiel) Chapter 1: (En)Gendered War Stories and Camouflaged Politics in (En)Gendering the War on Terror (2006)
Elvira Bojadzic co-founded Islamic Arts Magazine as an international platform for traditional and contemporary Islamic arts. She and her husband created the first online issue in 2009, after struggling to find such a magazine. Their website has become a platform for artists whose work is featured in their online gallery. They are now working on Islamic art e-Books. The first three e-Books will cover the history and architecture of Istanbul Mosques. Discover more: http://muslima.imow.org/content/rebuilding-cultural-tradition
In 2003, during a one year mission in Afghanistan under NGO “Aina” Roshanak Bahramlou, an Iranian photographer, started to document the private and daily life of women, in a country where they had gone through social annihilation. Inspired by traditional techniques used by local photographers to incorporate color into black and white film, the only film available in Afghanistan, she creates images of women in Afghanistan in different way. As she shares the similar culture and language with them, she felt that they are more open to her than any other foreigners. These women lived or were born during the Taliban’s rules. Discover more: http://muslima.imow.org/gallery/intimit%C3%A9s-afgintimit%C3%A9s-afghaneshanes
“In my art, I wish to present myself through multiple lenses — as artist, as Moroccan, as traditionalist, as Liberal, as Muslim. In short, I invite viewers to resist stereotypes.”–Lalla Essaydi. You can discover more on her website.
As a beginning project for my internship with WVN, I screened several films from the past WVN film festival at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Student Union in London. I have been studying there as part of my year abroad. The school is incredibly diverse. As I screened the short films in the common room, I noticed many who curiously watched the short films. I spoke with several students and discovered a breadth of interests that connected with the films: a non-Muslim woman interested in issues of gender and religion, a Muslim Indian woman who had made a short film about education, a Muslim woman studying Islamic law, an African woman studying Development, an American man studying International Politics, several British young women studying Arabic and many many more young adults who engaged with the films made by women from Muslim-majority societies. When asked if they were interested in the WVN Mission and seeing more films made by women from Muslim-majority societies, there was a resounding YES each time. Students were aware of the bias found in major news networks and popular films. Many commented on the need for individual and collectively diverse voices from women. This is especially true for women from Muslim-majority societies, which are inaccurately portrayed as one and monolithic culture. The SOAS screening successfully advertised WVN as a new organization and engaged the student body with the films.