MMW 2011 Year in Review: Head Coverings and Head-Shaking

As 2011 draws to a close, we at MMW are looking back at our year of posts.  For those who missed posts earlier in the year, or for those who want to look back through some of the things we wrote about, we’ll be going through some of those through the rest of this week.  On Wednesday, we started off with an overview of some of the news stories that we talked about in 2011; yesterday, we looked at books, movies, and television; and today will look at some of the more ridiculous stories that came up, as well as the many post on our “favourite” topic, hijab.  Our regular Friday links will return next week.

Note: We had some problems with the links in yesterday’s post.  If you’re reading this on the MMW home page and the links aren’t working, please click on the title of the post, which will take you to this post’s page, and the links should work from there.

I’m sure everyone will be shocked that the topic of hijab was a recurring one in many of our posts this year.  Stories ranged from the hype over the Facebook page of someone who took off hijab; a memoir and film about trans women in Indonesia; and representations of veiling and stigmas related to breast cancer.  Women facing legal barriers to wearing hijab or niqab came up frequently, whether it was a Spanish student who wanted to wear niqab to school; a complainant in a Canadian sexual assault case, who is facing a court challenge in order to wear niqab while testifying; a Swiss basketball player fighting to wear hijab on the basketball court; and the Iranian women’s soccer team, which was kicked out of international tournaments for wearing hijab as part of the uniform.

Some of the veil stories were well-intentioned but still missed the mark, involving the use of women’s bodies and clothing for patriotic purposes; a NPR report on women taking off hijab; an article attempting to prove just how “normal” Muslim women really are; and a series of articles that attempted to go “beyond the veil” but never quite got there.  Others were more obviously offensive, either from an Islamophobic perspective (an anti-niqab campaign in France, and a magazine cover with a woman in niqab supposedly representing the new face of Arab democracy), or from a patronising religious perspective (telling us that hijab will save us from the dangers of a scary forest, or will make our brains bigger).  But then, there was also the downright awesome, in the form of a Youtube video with a young woman who tears apart the analogy comparing women to pearls.

And then there were the many stories this year (whether related to hijab or not) that just made us roll our eyes and hope our heads wouldn’t explode.  Muslim women (or women portrayed as Muslim) were the subjects of scandalous media stories throughout the year: actresses Veena Malik and Sila Sahin got some attention, as did a news report about the supposedly risqué activities of Muslim girls throughout Europe.  The woman who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape became the target of widespread victim-blaming.  We responded to the concerns and attempts to save Muslim women expressed by Bill Maher, Jonah Goldberg, Maureen Dowd, and Richard Dawkins, and demeaning ads intending to draw attention to women’s rights in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.  While a UK report on people becoming Muslim had some important points, the focus on stories about white women was tired and frustrating.

The Gay Girl in Damascus blog, which turned out to be a hoax, got a bunch of attention and drew reflection on the media reaction to the stories posted by “Amina Abdullah.”  Earlier this week, Sana also looked at another hoax, the infamous cucumber fatwa .  On Eid-ul-Fitr, we were disturbed to learn that sisters might not quite count as people.  Sara Yasin reacted to a Jezebel article freaking out about a baby named Jihad, and shared with us what she has learned about the dangers of driving while female.

And that’s a wrap for this year!  See you in 2012 insha’Allah!

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