Identity

Muslim Artists Create Illustrated Tributes to their Muslim Heroines

To celebrate Muslim Women's Day, we asked Muslim artists from around the world to illustrate and reflect on a Muslim woman who inspires them.

by Leila Ettachfini
Mar 27 2018, 6:18pm

Illustration by Asli Yazan

One year ago today, MuslimGirl launched the first official Muslim Women's Day. It was a couple months after the Trump administration first attempted to impose a Muslim ban on the US, and in the midst of the heightened Islamophobia that followed.

Spearheaded by its founder Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, MuslimGirl decided to create Muslim Women's Day to "engineer a new precedent for Muslim women's representation in mainstream media," Al-Khatahtbeh told CNN. "Muslim Women's Day is a call to action to... center Muslim women's voices for the day, to empower us, to flood the Internet with new, diverse, positive stories and Muslim women's voices."

In light of that mission, we're celebrating the second annual Muslim Women's Day at Broadly by asking five Muslim women artists from around the world to draw and reflect on a Muslim woman who inspires them. Here's what they sent us:

Taraneh Alidoosti by Asli Yazan

Taraneh Alidoosti is one of Iran's most popular actresses, having starred in Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's films like Salesman and About Elly. Since her rise to fame, Alidoosti has used her popularity to highlight issues that matter to her both at home and abroad, from sporting a feminist tattoo at a press conference in Tehran to boycotting the Oscars to protest Trump's Muslim Ban.

Turkish illustrator Asli Yazan chose to showcase Alidoosti this Muslim Women's Day because of both her portrayal and embodiment of "powerful female characters who are eager to challenge and question the socio-political system in Iran."

You can find more of Asli Yazan's work here.

Silya Ziani by Merieme Mesfioui

Last year, after Moroccan authorities confiscated a fish vendor named Mouhcine Fikri's merchandise in the city of Al Hoceima, he dove into the garbage truck where police threw his livelihood. Inside, he faced a brutal death as the compactor began to operate.

Fikri's death sparked outrage in the city as Moroccans protested to demand justice and an end to widespread corruption. At the time, 23-year-old Moroccan Berber singer and student Silya Ziani dropped her studies to lead these demonstrations in what became known as Al Hirak al Chaabi or the Popular Movement. She was soon arrested by Moroccan authorities for her activism, which sparked outrage that eventually led to her royal pardon.

"I chose Ziani because she's a true icon for Moroccan youth," says Moroccan artist Merieme Mesfioui. "She's inspiring for her braveness and her determination. [She] kept fighting even when the authorities put her in jail. She deserves to be celebrated for her activism, and I hope more girls will find the strength to fight like her with no fear."

You can find more of Merieme Mesfioui's work here.

Iqbal Begum by Ayqa Khan (her granddaughter)

New York City-based visual artist Ayqa Khan chose to draw her grandmother Iqbal Begum for Muslim Women's Day.

"I look up to my nano because she embodies values that I feel are leaving this world," says Khan. "These values are ones I believe are necessary for a peaceful soul—something that I think is almost impossible to maintain in the high-functioning capitalistic society we live in. I've been thinking about how I feel [that] some of my pain comes from how far away I am from my ancestors, both physically and spiritually. When I get to see my nano, I am grounded. My nano is a woman who has taken care of people all her life. She believes in doing what is morally right, and to give when you have nothing, trusting that the world will give back to you. I have always admired the way my nano gets herself ready for the day, even when she's just sitting at home. She keeps herself pristine for herself and her family. I wish I got to see my nano more, but she has taught me so much through her presence and way of living that I hope to carry on as I grow."

You can find more of Ayqa Khan's work here.

Asma Jahangir by Nashra Balagamwala

Pakistani artist Nashra Balagamwala chose to illustrate the human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir, who passed away in February. This is what she had to say about Jahangir:

"A champion of human rights, a woman with guts of steel, Asma Jahangir is one of the most inspiring Muslim women I have heard of. Asma shed the societal implications of being a female in Pakistan, and spent her life battling for the dispossessed of our nation. She was a true warrior, and in spite of severe opposition and threats, she never faltered in her mission. Her strength has given us the courage to fight against the misogynist traditions in Pakistan.

We lost our hero this year, but her memory is fondly engraved in my heart and her fearlessness will continue to inspire me."

You can find more of Nashra Balagamwala's work here.

Samira Kanji by Farida Zaman

Toronto-based artist Farida Zaman chose to illustrate Samira Kanji, the president and CEO of the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, which aims "to foster an appreciation of the diversity and beauty of the cultural heritages in the world of Islam."

"Samira Kanji is a true role model for Muslim women because of her progressive values towards Islam," says Zaman. "She has successfully challenged the preconceptions of the religion and its patriarchal culture. At the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, a place where men and women pray side by side, [she] welcomes people of different backgrounds and faiths. Samira encourages Muslims to celebrate oneness and unity."

You can find more of Farida Zaman's work here.