Biography: I am Hebah Qatanani, originally Palestinian, living in the UAE. I am currently a second year architecture student at the American university in Dubai. I study Islamic Arts and Architecture as part of my course.
Aim: In this work, I am aiming to deconstruct the typical images and labels associated with Muslims in the media, specifically on the internet.
The medium: For this project I decided to use a collage of pictures and words.
Description: When we hear a word our brain usually forms an image associated with that word, in what is called as a perception. In the media, especially the western media, Muslims have been tagged with specific labels, such as “terrorists” and “violent” that are now used to generalize all Muslims. These negative words and images has catalyzed the formation of “islamophobia”. Many westerns and other non-Muslims are fearing Muslims from all the negative images they have associated with them. This resulted in Muslims around the world being discriminated and looked down on, mainly because of these superficial labels. In this way the media disregards the diversity of Muslims. The same is true when it comes to Muslim women. Words like “oppressed” and “abused” has become the norm. A Muslim woman is now conceived as this foreign person who is covered from head to toe and oppressed by her society. This overgeneralization is dangerous because it is not true. Muslim women are just like any other women. They are very diverse. Each Muslim country has its own traditions and culture, hence each Muslim is different than the other and labeling leads to stereotypes and conflict. Hence, as a Muslim and as an art student, I am trying through my artwork break free from these negative labels and replace them with more positive ones.
For this project I used Google to search the word “Muslims” and “Muslim women and then collected few pictures and words that I found from the first pages of the result pool generated. Most of these images were negative images of Muslims. I then collected a similar number of pictures I took of people I know (Muslims) to create a collection of positive, more realistic images of Muslims. Then I used these two mediums to create a small four page notebook of collages. There is two sections to the notebook, each consisting of 2 pages. The first page is a transparent paper and contains the images and labels from the search associated with the word “Muslims”. The transparent paper is to represent the superficiality of the media and the weakness of the stereotypes it creates. The second page consists of a solid white page representing a more realistic view of Muslims. It contains positive words and pictures replacing the negative ones on the previous page. The opaque paper here is to represent the solidity and reality of that picture compared to the previous. Also, I chose to work with white because it is the color of peace and purity. A form of peace and purity that comes from within Islam and from the deconstruction of the stereotype. Then for the next two pages I repeated the same concept but for words “Muslim women”.
By replacing negative words and images by more positive, realistic ones I am aiming at deconstructing the labels that have formed Islamophobia.
I named my project as “Search code: Muslims” for two reasons. One because in my work I am trying to deconstruct the stereotype related to the search engines on the internet such as Google, and Yahoo using the word Muslims. Secondly, with this name refer to the phrase “search code” that investigators in western movies sometimes use. In their investigation they use clues and codes in their path to find the truth, which is exactly what I am aiming to do. I am aiming to show the world who Muslims really are and shed some positive light on the whole situation.
I was inspired in my work by the short documentary “Inside Islam: what a Billion Muslims really think”. This documentary that we watched in class, in my opinion, brilliantly tackles the problems with Muslim stereotypes and the Muslim world in general. Also it aims to educate people on who Muslims really are, what they do, how they think and so on through studies and statistics not by only by a chat.