News / Arts & Entertainment

Exhibit Challenges Stereotypes of Muslim Women

Nadia Helmy Ahmed of Denmark challenges ideas about how Muslim women should act. (International Museum of Women)
Nadia Helmy Ahmed of Denmark challenges ideas about how Muslim women should act. (International Museum of Women)
Faiza Elmasry
The Arabic word “muslima” means a woman who believes in God.

The online Muslima exhibition, by the International Museum of Women, highlights the individuality of Muslim women and the rich diversity of their thoughts and contributions.

The exhibit's curator says one of the goals is to dispel negative stereotypes.

“When we think of Muslim women, we think that they are as weak, passive women who also happen to be veiled,” said Samina Ali, an Indian-born Muslim novelist, artist and activist.

The exhibit uses art, film, music, and interviews to present a portrait of Muslim women that is opposite of the stereotype, presenting strong and involved women who are determined to improve their societies.

  • "Noor Ali" from Sadaf Syed's photo book, "iCover" chronicles the every day lives of Muslim women who choose to cover. (International Museum of Women }
  • Nadia Helmy Ahmed of Denmark challenges ideas about how Muslim women behave. (International Museum of Women)
  • "Behind the Veil" by Nouha Sinno of Lebanon and the United States. (International Museum of Women)
  • In "Marilyn," Homa Arkani of Iran recreates an iconic Marilyn Monroe pose. (International Museum of Women)
  • In "The Wonder Within," Helen Zughaib of Lebanon and the United States, invokes the Wonder Woman superhero character. (International Museum of Women)
  • By depicting Muslim women with and without headscarves, Kelly Izdihar Crosby, of the United States, shows the diversity of the Islamic global community. (International Museum of Women)
  • To Idil Abdullahi, of Somalia and Australia, these vessels carry messages of growing through love, deserting your ego, and finding the truth to arrive at the “perfect” human stage. (International Museum of Women)
  • Sophia Sattar of Pakistan sees her painting, "Alphabet Twin," as an amalgamation of East with West, classic with contemporary. (International Museum of Women)

“We have a beautiful documentary called Half-Value Life by Alka Sadat," Ali said, "and she’s speaking about the struggle that women in Afghanistan have faced under the Taliban regime and continue to face now and how women aren’t valued.”

The filmmaker documents the struggles of Marya Bashir, a public prosecutor and women's rights activist, who fights to eliminate political corruption and violence against women.

“I wanted to show that the women are powerful in Afghanistan," Sadat said. "If they get an opportunity to work, some women are trying to help other women.”

Appearance is another issue closely associated with Muslim women, who are often identified by what they wear.

“When I go out I feel comfortable wearing the hijab, I wouldn’t feel comfortable otherwise. [It’s] something as simple as putting on a little blush or a little bit of lip gloss,” said Boushra Almutawakel, a photographer from Yemen.

Though comfortable under her hijab, she doesn’t like it when society imposes extreme covering.

For her series in the exhibit, "Mother-Daughter-Doll," she posed with her daughter and her daughter’s doll. In a sequence of photos, we first see the three of them uncovered, and gradually, disappearing under layers of garments.

“You have the abaya. Then you have a thing over the abaya, then the neqab, then the veil over that, then the black gloves," said Almutawakel. "I just found it so alarming. To me personally, I don’t find it has anything to do with religion. I felt like they are trying to cover women out of extinction because the next thing from covering them up is just stay at home, you might as well not even be seen. That’s the idea behind the ‘Mother, Daughter, Doll’ series.”
Boushra Almutawakel, a photographer from Yemen who wears a headscarf, opposes extreme covering because it makes women disappear. (International Museum of Women)Boushra Almutawakel, a photographer from Yemen who wears a headscarf, opposes extreme covering because it makes women disappear. (International Museum of Women)
Raising strong, self-confident young women is what Ilyasah Shabazz considers essential for advancing any society. The daughter of outspoken black activist Malcolm X says she was inspired by her mother, Betty Shabazz.

“She made sure that we were raised proud to be of the African diaspora, proud to be women, proud to be Muslim," Ilyasah habazz said. "I think we have to pass those values to our children.”

Shabazz encourages Muslim women everywhere to become more involved in their own societies, to help bring about positive change and to work globally with one another.

“I was in Mali with Muslim women there. I was on an interfaith delegation to make sure that the mothers had the shots or the bed-nets for the malaria," she said. "[There are] so many different forms of empowering people.”

Through words and images, the International Museum of Women hopes to inspire and educate web visitors. Catherine King, who heads the museum, also wants to encourage action.

“We really want to make this a vibrant, interactive experience for our visitors. We’ve created the ‘Speak Up! Listen Up’ action campaign, which visitors can join," King said. "We’ll be updating them about new additions to the exhibition, new opportunities to learn about issues, ways to get involved.”

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Head: Breach Won't Happen Again

Julia Pierson tells a House panel investigating a recent intrusion at the White House: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sunita from: India
April 29, 2013 12:55 PM
oh.. please... what a croak !!

In Response

by: Nadia from: USA
April 30, 2013 4:38 AM
Yes, just dismiss ALL of the Muslim women and their diversity who are speaking up on behalf of their experiences. I'm sure you would understand where they are coming from.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Matthew Wade sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his new CD, “Diamond from Coal,” his fourth album with his band, My Silent Bravery.