The rise of Muslim and Middle Eastern women in American media and culture

Muslim and Middle Eastern women in media and culture are becoming more normalized, mainstream, and accessible. I don’t know if part of my realization of this is my own searching for this content or if it is just easier to find. I do know that social media has exponentially accelerated the accessibility of images and information from around the world which does contribute to a wider variety of content available. Also an entire generation is coming out, speaking out, and making their presence known in all subjects of media, culture, entertainment, and politics. And I must say I LOVE IT.

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Linda Sarsour is my favorite political activist who is loud and proud about being a Palestinian American from Brooklyn, NY. This past year she was one of the coordinators and speakers at the Women’s March which gained national coverage. She stresses intersectionaility as a powerful tool in change among social injustice. Find her on social media to learn about her latest projects.

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Ibtihaj Muhammed is a member of the United States fencing team and the first hijabi Olympian to represent America winning a bronze medal in the Team Sabre. Mattel has created the first hijabi Barbie after her to compliment their Shero line. It should available in 2018.

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lhan Omar is a Somali American politician from Minnesota. She was elected into the Minnesota House of Representatives making her the first Somali American Muslim senator. She graced the cover of Time magazine this September as one of 45 women breaking barriers.

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Noor Tagouri is a reporter for newsy and the first hijabi Muslim to appear in playboy magazine, named their 2016 renegade. With a passion for journalism and a love for Oprah, she aspires to become the first hijabi news anchor on American Television. Noor believes her hijabi image encourages trust with her experience in being largely misrepresented by the public. She is a motivational speaker, check out her TED talk here, and encourages everyone to be their best self and their most rebellious self to be true to oneself.

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Peggy Sulaihan is my new favorite housewife. I love watching the Real Housewives series but I am always disappointed at the lack of middle eastern women. There was one Lebanese housewife who appeared on one season of RH Miami but her presence was minimal. Peggy brings sass and class to the RHOC along with style and beauty. She lovingly shares her Armenian culture and values with the audience.

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This past year, Vogue launched its middle eastern magazine Vogue Arabia in March 2017 and the imagery is stunning. I can’t gain access to a copy here in the states but I can follow on Instagram and check out their online version: VOGUE ARABIA

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Also this past September, Saudi Arabia granted women the freedom to drive. It will take full effect June 2018 but women gladly got behind the wheel immediately. Other progress for women in the country was a gender mixed Saudi national day and the freedom to mix in sports stadiums and music concerts. They have also moved forward with normalizing team sports for women. I am excited to see more of Saudi’s fearless females taking a global stage and sharing their talent, intelligence, creativity, and inspiration with the rest of the world.

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Originally intended for this post but there were too many great bloggers to leave out, check out my favorite “18 Middle Eastern Bloggers to check out in 2018

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Finally, Ahed Tamimi is the latest symbol of Palestinian resistance. Her family is famous for their regular non-violent protests to protect their village of Nabi Saleh. Her sister Janna Jihad also regularly posts videos of the occupation on Facebook. They have brought a personal account of growing up under the Israeli occupation from a female point of view and from a child’s point of view. Ahed Tamimi was recently arrested after a video went viral of her slapping a soldier. The reason she slapped the soldier was because her 15 year old cousin was shot close range in the face with a rubber coated steel bullet. She is now among thousands of Palestinian children under incarceration by the Israeli government. Fortunately her story is being heard regardless of how the Israeli and American media try to diminish and downplay her cause for resistance and the apartheid government in Israel.

I leave you with a great song by the Lebanese band Mashrou Leila, who are well known for singing about topics that are not widely accepted by leaders in the Middle East. Luckily we are able to listen to them here.

Equality. Solidarity. Intersectionality. (excerpt taken from their official website)

The video self-consciously toys with the intersection of gender with race by celebrating and championing a coalition of Arab and Muslim women, styled to over-articulate their ethnic background, in a manner more typically employed by Western media to victimise them. This seeks to disturb the dominant global narrative of hyper-secularised (white) feminism, which increasingly positions itself as incompatible with Islam and the Arab world, celebrating the various modalities of middle-eastern feminism. The video purposefully attempts to revert the position of the (male) musicians as the heroes of the narrative, not only by subjecting them to the (female) gaze of the director, but also by representing them as individuals who (literally) take the backseat as the coalition moves forward. So while the lyrics of the verses discuss betrayal, struggle, and conflict, the video revolves around the lyrical pivot in the chorus: ‘aleihum (charge!) treating oppression, not as a source of victimhood, but as the fertile ground from which resistance can be weaponised.

Mashrou’ Leila – Roman – Music Video

Lyrics

I don’t intend to swallow your lies The words would sting my throat. I won’t dissect your intentions; Leave your tongue in its cage. You can keep the time I gave you; Strangle what self I was for you, But before you lay me to rest, Tell me what cost I came at. Charge Charge Charge Charge Worms sculpt my body now. The earth cradles my skin. Why’d you sell me to the romans? Worms sculpt my body now. The earth cradles my skin. How’d I lose you to the romans? Charge Charge Charge Charge Why’d you sell me to the romans? How’d I lose you to the romans?

We Rise. We Charge. ‘Aleihum!

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