Muslim women are empowered and confident

Published: June 1, 2012
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Don’t nuns wear headscarves and choose to forgo their sexuality in the name of Christianity? PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL

 Do you have to wear a burqa when you are at home?

It was a legitimate question, coming from peers, sometimes professors and occasionally even friends while I was in college in the United States.

It wasn’t the innocence of the question itself, but rather the oppressive perception that followed which encouraged me to use my lens in order to express the complexity of being a woman in a country like Pakistan.

I wanted to say no, that while some women were painted black head-to-toe, some draped a casual chaddar (shawl) on their heads, some roamed in jeans, while others went to underground parties in skimpy dresses.

I wanted to tell them that the veil in itself was not the greatest symbol of repression, it was the patriarchal mindset of the empowered men and the acquiescing women around me that made it hard to breathe.

I found myself reluctant to agree with the idea of the veil, yet eager to defend its standing because of the quick western dismissal of it.

People see a woman in a scarf and assume that she is oppressed, but to judge a book by its cover seems unfair. Don’t nuns wear head scarves and choose to forgo their sexuality in the name of Christianity?

The women in these images are a fictional portrayal of the empowered Muslim woman, who is strong and beautiful, sensual and confident.

Though belonging to varying faiths, the women in the portraits challenge the perceptions of the West and its biases against head covering in an age when Muslims are seen as the runt of the litter by the western world – whose tolerance seems waning against its quickness to stereotype.

 

Myra Iqbal

Myra Iqbal

The author is a photojournalist at The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.