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Saturday, November 09, 2013 

What triumph is there in these contradictory depictions of the "new" middle east?

Bloomberg wrote about "Arab superwomen" in graphic novels coming from Islamic-dominated regimes, whose authors unfortunately remain stuck on the very religion that's cast them into hellish lives:
It wasn’t Egypt’s police force that saved Layla from sexual assault, it was Qahera, a sword-wielding, female superhero in a long black hijab.

Groped by the comic strip’s villains, Layla’s hopes of police assistance are dashed when an officer castigates her for wearing inappropriate clothing -- trousers and a sweater. Back on the street, she’s confronted by another gang of tormentors and is saved only when Qahera appears, beating them with a stick and then stringing them by the scruff of their necks from the police station railings.

Qahera is emblematic of a new breed of Arab comic superheroine emerging as liberals and conservatives dispute the legacy of the 2011 uprisings. Young artists are focusing on as yet unresolved issues in the Middle East and North Africa, which have left male-dominated cultures largely intact.

“Female superheroes and leading characters show women filling the gender gap and highlight governments’ neglect of women’s rights,” said Lena Merhej, a Lebanese artist researching visual narratives at Jacobs University Bremen in Germany, in an interview. The new breed of comic characters “fulfill their dreams and aspirations for a better life.”
How can they get a better life when Islam will only make their lives horrible? If the heroine named Qahera wore a mask so the thugs wouldn't know her identity, that's fine enough, but wearing a long hijab - symbolizing belief in a religion whose name translates in English as "submission" only defeats the aspirations. By upholding such a horrific belief system, that only ridicules whatever good intentions the author supposedly has.

On a related note, there was an animated cartoon broadcast on Pakistani TV recently called "Burka Avenger", and legitimate arguments were raised about whether this is the right way to address the issue of Islamofascists who wish to deny women an education:
While the TV series is prompting dialogue about education and women's rights worldwide, the Pakistani public is just learning about it due to limited distribution. As news spreads, some are reacting reacting more strongly to her crime-fighting outfit of choice -- a burka -- than to her message. The burka is a conservative outfit that many view as a symbol of oppression.

Human rights activist Marvi Sirmed told Brennan she feels the cartoon wrongly glamorizes the burka, which she calls "a tool of oppression."

"[It is] a symbol of submission of women. It cannot be used as a tool of empowerment," Sirmed told Brennan.
I think she's right. If the character wore a ski mask outfit, that would probably be the best way to hide her identity. Wearing a burka or niqab, realistically speaking, makes it difficult to fight and even see ahead well. These graphic novels and cartoons may ostensibly have good intentions, but so long as they absolve the Religion of Peace of any blame for the oppression it's led to, that only ruins whatever messages they're allegedly publishing.

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