By Raveena Kriplani
According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘Islamophobia’, is defined as dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force. The uprising of extremist terrorist groups fighting in the name of Islam, have led to dire consequences for the rest of the world. The direct, or most obvious, are the lives lost in the wars waged by such groups. However, the indirect consequences are more threatening to the Muslim world since people who instigate such terror, tarnish the name and reputation of the Islamic religion. This leads to stereotyping and generalization of Islam, and through this generalization a fear of Islam and Muslims arises.
My piece was inspired not so much by a particular artist, but in fact by a recent event that took place in Texas, United Sates. It occurred soon after the Paris terror attacks; a group of individuals referring to themselves as the “Bureau of Islamic Relations” protested the influx of Syrian refugees into the U.S outside a mosque in Texas. The protestors were dressed in facemasks and carrying loaded guns. They felt that such an anti-Islamic initiative was necessary to show force and, quote, ‘was a solution to Islamic terrorism’. The juxtaposition of the modestly dressed Muslim woman in a picture that was taken at that time, and the veiled man carrying the gun, both infuriated and inspired me. This picture highlights the irony of how such people have begun to associate the hijab with oppression or terrorism, meanwhile they are confidently wielding firearms and covering their face – doing exactly what they are supposedly against. Imagine the height of ignorance and fear that exists about Islam, only then would rational human beings consider threatening people on their way to worship, a holy place, where one comes to find inner peace, and defiling the concept of Islam in such a derogatory manner.
The West, and the United States in particular, advocates the first amendment as being so crucial and giving their people the right, and the freedom to live the life they choose. Hence, my artwork is titled “ikhtiyari” which translates to “my choice” in English. Everyone, should have the right to live and dress as they wish, this definition cannot be restricted to everyone except Muslims, but must include them as well.
In my painting I chose to depict a woman wearing the hijab, with her eyes looking out at the word “my choice”. The word is inscribed in a circle, which in Islam is a key geometrical shape since it represents God’s infinite nature. In addition, the circle is shaded like a purple sky, because I wanted to highlight that a Muslim individual’s choices are a reflection of the all mighty above (thus heavenly) and not influenced merely by material things. Moreover, I wanted to portray how the hijab, at the root of Islam, is nothing but a sign of modesty. I focused on her eyes to show her courage and defiance - I wanted to display an independent woman who will not bow her gaze down to anyone but God, and that is why her eyes are a prominent feature.
I am not a native Arabic speaker, though one of the reasons I painted the word my choice in Arabic instead of English it is the language of the Qu’ran which makes it a more powerful choice of language to use to convey my message. Furthermore, I thoroughly enjoyed the kufic calligraphy sessions we did, and that also motivated me to try searching for a slogan in Arabic. I used both oil and acrylic paints in this piece and I chose incorporate the colour gold in it due to the religious symbolism associated with it; it is one of the colours of Paradise.
I have been born and resided in Dubai all my life and I wanted to include something in my piece that is representative of the Islamic region that I live in, hence I chose to sieve through some sand from the desert, and used this technique to complete the background as a spiral of gold and sand.
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