Veiled Mirror is a photographic series that addresses the rigid and falsely interpreted adherence to Islamic law that has crippled women’s rights and equalities in some Middle Eastern states. Despite a great deal of Qur’anic evidence that speaks of the significance of women, many Islamic scholars continue to dismiss this concept. The fundamentalists in power, because they belong to a patriarchal culture, insist of enforcing laws that doubly oppress women both by discriminatory laws and unjust traditions. Islam was once the centre of learning, science and mathematics whose reach far extended religion. Sadly, it has regressed to the point where it is now only known for its religious oppression and belligerence.
In this series, I’ve explored these different ideas and presented them in direct relation to specific scripts from the Qur’an that discuss matters pertaining to women. By doing this, I aim to demystify and reinvent the notion of the ‘Arab woman’ and what this means today.
Arabic scripture derived from the Qur’an is drawn on this series of self-portraits using a gold marker. The golden text is drawn in a way that visually represents the religious misconceptions that are being enforced on women in fundamentalist states. For example, in one of the images, I drew a Burqa – a full body cloak worn by some Muslim women – on myself, using a specific scripture from the Qur’an, and arguably the only one, that speaks about modesty. This verse is used to justify, and enforce, the completely covering of women’s bodies, and is translated loosely as follows:
“And (as for) women, it is no sin for them if they put off their clothes without displaying their bosoms; and if they restrain themselves it is better for them” 24:31
By veiling myself with the text, I am using the actual words that can unjustly be used against me – as a Muslim woman – and covering myself with them; I’m taking a part in oppressing myself, if you will. The English translations of the scripts are framed beside each image. Through presenting the image and the translation side by side, I am to create a dialogue between the two. The words themselves are often referenced to justify oppression, and yet it is evident to the viewer, through reading the translations, that the text has been either exaggerated, taken out of context, and/or completely dismissed.
My aim through this project is to determine the source that is falsely being used to create oppressive misconceptions. I intend to demonstrate how Qur’anic text is used, or abused, to reinforce a patriarchal system that women in strict Muslim societies have no option but to live by.