Tag Archives: muslim

“World” Keeps Turning Over Stereotypes

by Guest Contributor Melinda, originally posted on Muslimah Media Watch

Last month we wrote about the introduction of a Muslim character on the popular American soap opera As the World Turns. Ameera Ali Aziz, arrived freshly from Iraq, faced deportation unless she married Noah, who was already in a relationship with boyfriend Luke. In the episodes since the wedding, the plot has thickened as the difficulty of maintaining a marriage of convenience has set in. Additionally, Ameera’s gone through a few changes.

The most immediately noticeable is her dress. Ameera arrived on the screen dressed in the standard under-chin hijab, no hair showing. Post-marriage she appeared to have started experimenting, trying out the style of hijab that tied in the back, leaving her earlobes bare. From there she went to leaving off the hijab altogether in front of her marriage-of-convenience husband, eliciting a “Your hair is so beautiful” comment. Now she’s settled into covering her in the Southwest Asian style — a scarf tossed loosely over her head, letting the front of her head (and hair!) show.

I’m not sure what the show’s writers or costume directors intended in this change. Perhaps they noticed what Noah did — that actor Tala Ashe does have pretty hair and perhaps they should capitalize on her looks. Quite possibly it’s part of an “Americanization” process the character is undergoing. Since, of course, American women don’t wear hijab. Immigrants might, but after awhile, they’ll see the American light and take it off.* Ameera provides no stated explanation, but the change reflects the idea that a fully covering hijab isn’t really compatible with being an American, as she is becoming.

At the same time, she seems more confident. That doesn’t mean the other characters abandon the patronizing comments and tones of voice, but Ameera has become less likely to put up with it. Trying to engage a discussion, Luke cajoles Ameera, “Come on. Let’s sit. Let’s talk.” She’s having none of it. “Just let me go,” she replies, irritated and uninterested in pleasing him.

Nevertheless, some of her old deference remains. “If you think that’s best, I’ll trust you,” she tells her husband obediently in another moment, her tone of voice clear that she doesn’t agree.

The writers continue to throw in stereotypes about Iraqi culture where they can. They simultaneously paint a picture of the U.S. that is completely blind to the sexism (and subsequent xenophobia) present in modern society and displayed by the show’s characters. One morning Noah wakes up to find Ameera in the kitchen, making a “real American breakfast” of eggs and orange juice — minus the bacon, one of the few (indirect) references to Ameera being Muslim. Noah tells her that being waited on makes him nervous. “But I’m your wife,” she protests. With the air of the all-knowing American, he explains, “That’s not the way it works around here.” I know plenty of American men who expect their wives to cook for them. I don’t know what world of gender equity Noah’s living in, but it’s one that nevertheless lets him get away with making comments like this:

“You’ve got to learn our customs here. Come, sit.” It’s like speaking to a toddler. Continue reading

Because 1.3 Billion People All Look the Same

by Latoya Peterson

Take a look at this cover:

What is the impression you get from the photo accompanying the headline?


Kabobfest asks
if the cover is racist.

Fatemeh, when she forwarded the Kabobfest link to me, said she thinks it is racist AND islamaphobic.

After checking out the source of the photo, the articles accompanying this issue of the American Interest don’t look too promising either:

What Do Muslims Think? amir taheri
Unprecedented intellectual ferment in the Muslim world is likely to have a happier ending than many Westerners suppose.

The Irrelevance of the Middle East philip e. auerswald
Neither our ‘energy insecurity’ nor the danger of terrorism is all it’s cracked up to be. The Middle East just isn’t that strategically important.

I’m throwing in my bid for racist, islamaphobic, and xenophobic – after all, they are playing up that fear of the scary ethnic “other” from a foreign land.

Thoughts?

Please note: I tend to get tons of static for covering Muslim issues here, many of the issues stemming from the fact that “Muslim” is not a race. And yes, I am well aware that a group of adherents of the same religion are not necessarily of one set race. However, the treatment of Islam in the media (and the subsequent discrimination that manifests against Muslims) is racialized. So, we cover it. Also, the fact that Islam is associated with one set group of people (with one set look) is problematic in itself.

No Más, Por Favor: Stereotypes of Latina Muslims

by Guest Contributor Melinda, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

There’s a trend in the Americas. Latina* women are getting tired of Catholicism. They’re sick of being called “mamacita” in the streets. They don’t want to deal anymore with the chauvinistic pigs otherwise known as Latino men. So they’re throwing away their tank tops and their statues of the Virgin Mary and pulling on the hijab and ‘abaya instead.

Or so the media would have you believe. I’ve seen a stream of articles about Latina women converting to Islam, and they overwhelmingly rely on stereotyped images of Latino cultures as well as Muslims. The topic has been covered by MSNBC, NPR, the Christian Science Monitor, the Houston Chronicle, and more.

Here’s the standard lead:

Latina woman is walking down the street. It’s a hot day, and she’s dressed in a full-length skirt (dress, coat, etc.) and a hijab. She passes some Latino men. They look towards her and don’t scream at her. She sighs thankfully and reflects on the days of the past, of catcalls and shouts of “Hey, mami” as she walked by in her skimpy outfit.

The article then explains that in Latino culture, men are macho jerks and women are sex objects. In Islam, they are covered up and immediately respected. The author retells the woman’s decision to leave Catholicism for Islam, her experience putting on hijab, and the sad reactions of her family. If the journalist tries to dig a little deeper, there may be some theological reasons for choosing Islam, but they’re usually an afterthought. Some articles will note that Latina women like the strict gender roles of Islam because that’s what they’re used to.

Of course, not every article follows this mold precisely, but none stray from it completely. They paint monolithic pictures of both Latinos/Latinas and Muslims. It’s especially unfortunate in a time when both groups are often vilified and misunderstood in the United States. Continue reading

Where Have All the Manners Gone?

by Guest Contributor Aaminah Hernández, originally published on Writeous Sister Speaks


We’ve all seen it. A lot of us have experienced it personally. There is talk all the time about how the youth of today are rude and disrespectful, parents aren’t teaching their kids basic manners anymore, etc. That may or may not be true. But what isn’t discussed so often is the rudeness of older generations.

A white Muslim friend of mine once told me about her grandmother who still uses the “N” word and has made indirect disparaging comments about my friend’s Arab husband and about her wearing hijab. She brushed it off because who has time to stay angry at that kind of ignorance? She figured her grandmother is old, from a different generation where that kind of stuff was normal, she isn’t likely to change now. But my friend’s mother had a different viewpoint. She said that it was fine to be compassionate, understanding the woman’s age and how society was in “her day” but not to excuse her for not having learned anything and choosing not to change.

A lot of us have family members like my friend’s grandmother. And it’s not just those of us who are Muslims, but any of us from any minority know people who haven’t changed with the times. Many of our white allies have family or friends that make comments that, while not directed at them personally, make them shudder. I’ve read other bloggers relatively recently who have said “you can’t stop being family, but what do you say or do when someone you love says something that shocks or hurts you?” Some people have even discussed this in relation to Rev. Jeremiah Wright – we all know someone we respect who says stuff we don’t agree with sometimes but we don’t throw them under a bus for it! (For the record, I agree with the Rev anyway.)

Today in the grocery store (which is rarely a pleasant experience anyway) a considerably older gentleman (really, I’d guess that he could have easily been in his 80s) looked at me and very loudly said “what the heck is that? What do you even call that?” And laughed as he turned his cart (and back) to me and tried to walk away. He was still laughing and happened to have turned down the next aisle that I was going into, so as I turned into the aisle I saw him there, and he kept laughing and shaking his head saying “the things you see… the people they let come into our country… how ridiculous” as he turned his cart again like he was trying to get away from me. Continue reading

CNN’s Special on Women in Iraq: Painting Iraqi Women With the Victim Brush

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

On Saturday and Sunday, CNN ran a program called On Deadly Ground: The Women of Iraq. Hosted by Arwa Damon, the program briefly profiled several women who live in Iraq; at the beginning, she promises, “You will meet the women of Iraq.”

The program opens on a street somewhere in Baghdad: unpaved, muddy, with trash lying in heaps on the street. Damon’s voiceover introduces us to a young woman who squats in a decrepit building with her children because she has divorced her husband—she won’t live with her family because they will make her return her children to her ex-husband. When speaking about her living conditions, Damon’s tone is that of incredulousness and even disgust: “They’re squatting in an old building,” she says in an attempt to elicit a sympathetic response from the viewer. “What you see her [the young woman] going through…this is normal.” She wants us to realize how badly this woman (whose name is not shared) has it, and the fact that she is not the only one: “They [displaced families] are tragically becoming more and more the norm.”

Damon tells us that “Iraq is a country of contrasts” and makes this the official theme of the program. She contrasts the divorcee living in poverty with Iraq’s remaining elites who can afford to play at private pools. She contrasts these same elites with women who cannot afford to feed their children and thus live two lives: one life with husbands and children, a second life as a prostitute to earn the money that feeds their families. Women without agency to a woman with an agency: Yanar Mohammed, the founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Then, Samar, a 25-year-old woman on death row because she is accused of being an accomplice to murders committed by her fiancé. Another contrast, between a young woman who will either be put to death or spend her life in prison, and 14-year-old Wurud, who chats on the internet and whose father is a high-profile Iraqi official. A girl who believes in Iraq’s government vs. the wife of an insurgent who is against the government. Then Dr. Eaman, who disassociates herself from her only son to keep him safe from the insurgents that threaten her own life, but treats Iraqi children. And, finally, Nahla: she still has her child, but she no longer has her husband, who was killed in an attack.

The program does not focus on the overall condition of Iraqi women as the title might imply. This was a missed opportunity: the security of and increased violence against Iraqi women has made headlines, with male gynecologists in Iraq being targeted and increased attacks on women who attend school or don’t wear headscarves.

Instead of focusing on all Iraqi women, the program zeroes in on these women and their particular difficulties. It is the common tragedies of these specific women’s lives that Damon makes into a second theme. All of these women live with fear of raids or bombs, and all of their stories feature tragic events. Even the “positive” stories like Wurud’s or Mohammed’s, stories about women making or wholeheartedly believing in change, are tinged with bitterness and despair. When Damon asks Wurud if she is ever afraid, she brushes this off with teenage bravado: “I am never afraid.” The viewer understands this as boasting: we still feel sorry for her life that is interrupted by bomb blasts and the fact that her beloved father is a target. Even Mohammed and Dr. Eaman, both women who work for positive change, leave behind their sons. Mohammed tells us that she continues to return to Iraq because, “all the people that I love have been crushed.” Continue reading

En Vogue: Muslim Women in Fashion News

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

A smattering of articles have appeared in newspapers lately, aiming to spread the word about how fashionable Muslim women are. These articles seem to refute the idea that Muslim women are against or unreceptive to fashion: “You can be religious and fashionable! Lots of them are! See?”

Is this supposed to be a compliment? Generalizing an entire religious group into a massive worldwide body of snappy dressers?

I wrote earlier on the popular perception of Muslim/Middle Eastern women as label whores, and many of these articles play up that exact angle. The Independent’s article, written by Sarah Buys, openly states, “This [retail development in the Gulf], in turn, has given rise to one of the most sartorially savvy, high-fashion buying demographs in the world. Middle Eastern Muslim women aren’t just prolific shoppers, now they are discerning, prolific shoppers.”

“Quit your bitching,” you might say. “It’s a compliment to be considered fashionable. What’s your problem?” My problem is that, with this characterization of Muslims as rich and fashionable, we slide right into “label whore” territory, which brings along with it the labels of the “rich Arab teenager” or the “spoiled Persian princess,” both younger cousins to the harmful Jewish-American Princess stereotype. These are class-based stereotypes that attach themselves to specific ethnicities and, now, to Muslims. They are not compliments.

If that’s not offensive enough for you, we can always take a look at the underlying Orientalism surrounding these articles. The title of The Independent’s article is “Muslin women: Beneath the Veil.” And The New York Sun piece, written by Jesse Sposato, is entitled, “Conservative Muslim Women Hide Knack for Fashion Under Their Religious Robes.” All this “beneath the veil” crap is tired. Women who wear more conservative clothes in line with their interpretations of Islamic requirements just wear clothes under those things! But these articles can’t be satisfied with that. What kind of clothes?

Hold on to your fantasies: they wear sexy clothes! Sposato’s article recounts a young woman’s anecdote about what a girl she knew would wear under her abaya: “When I was living in Dubai, there was a girl who wore a closed abaya with a bikini under it! She would just be at university walking around with a bikini under her abaya, and nobody would know. It was great.”

And Buys doesn’t even wait to get into the article to fantasize about what Muslim women are wearing under there. She comes right out and sexualizes us all in the tag line: “…And under that shapeless, monochrome exterior, don’t be surprised to find a daring and imaginative sense of style – not to mention a miniskirt or pink hot pants.”

So, according to these articles, Muslim women walking around in austere black robes are practically naked underneath. Ironic, isn’t it? The majority of these women wear conservative clothes to take focus away from their bodies (in line with cultural practices or certain Islamic schools of thought), and these articles bring it right back to them.

These articles would make more sense to me if these papers were doing some sort of style profile on several different religions; Islam is not the only religion with modesty guidelines. But singling out Muslim women (none of the articles mentioned modesty requirements for men) in order to sexually hint at what’s “underneath the veil” just doesn’t sit well with me.

All Saudi Arabia Needs is Love

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

This sloppy article from CNN talks about how Saudi Arabia overreacts to Valentine’s Day every year and bans all things red in an attempt to quash any plans Saudis have to celebrate the holiday. The Saudi government considers Valentine’s Day to be un-Islamic and thus bans roses, teddy bears, and all things Valentine-related.

So the article starts out decently enough, talking about why Saudi Arabia discourages the holiday, describing the black market for roses that pops up, and speaks with a Saudi blogger for his perspective.

Then, CNN tacks on a three-paragraph description of how difficult women have it in the kingdom, complete with two of the most recent cases that have drawn international attention. Which has…what…to do with Valentine’s Day?

Attaching this to the end of an article about Valentine’s Day makes it seem like CNN blames all of Saudi Arabia’s problems with women on the fact that the government doesn’t recognize the holiday. Well, that solves it. All we have to do is invade Saudi Arabia and liberate them so they can celebrate Valentine’s Day. That should clear up everything nicely.

Oooh, Baby, Put it On: Ripping up Veil Fetish Art

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

The original view of Middle Eastern/Muslim women was that of a lazily sensual harem woman reclining on a couch. Most recently, it has morphed into a cowed housewife bullied by her religion and the men in her life. From these icons arises a newer image of Muslim women: one that combines the two.

I’ll term this genre “veil fetish art,” because every featured woman has most or all of her face and hair covered. Although the woman herself is the main focus, the veil acts as a sexual catalyst: it brands the woman as forbidden, despite the fact that you may be able to see most of her naked body. So even though she’s exposed, the veil reminds you that she’s “forbidden fruit,” and pushes the viewer to want her even more.

So did I find these pictures while uploading porn? Nope. All I did was run a Google search for phrases like “Muslim women,” “burka,” and “veil,” and several not-safe-for-work results came up (FYI: moderate safe-search was on). The majority of these results came up within the first five pages. If you click on the pictures to find where they’re showcased, you’ll usually be taken to websites geared toward Islamophobic and xenophobic world views that fly under the flag of “anti-terrorism.” Or Islamophobic discussion threads. Or porn sites (sorry, no links for those).

Though it’s a possibility, these women are most likely not Middle Eastern or Muslim. It’s more likely that they’re white and/or western models with some spray-tans. The only thing that signifies their cultural or religious affiliation is a veil, which works in two ways: to brand the woman as a Middle Eastern/Muslim woman, and to arouse the viewer.

It’s something like an updated version of the French-Algerian colonialist postcards produced in the mid-nineteenth century. The primary difference is that the Orientalist postcards centered on domesticity, docility, and an exotic locale, aiming to showcase naïve young Algerian girls with their breasts exposed.

But the subjects of veil fetish art are neither girls nor innocent, and it doesn’t matter where they are: these women are hot under that niqab, and they want you to know it. They are positioned in pin-up posture: coy, curvy, and enticing. Or, they’re in a Maxim-style stance: they stare you down while your eyes roam over their partially-obscured form. Continue reading