The Q&A: Samina Ali – Muslim women make some noise

THE International Museum of Women is an online showcase for art, stories and ideas about women’s issues to encourage social change around the world. Recently it launched an online exhibition called “Muslima: Muslim Women’s Art & Voices”, which considers what it means to be a Muslim woman today. It features artworks, stories, interviews with prominent female Muslim leaders and activists, and multimedia memoirs which explore ordinary life as a Muslim woman.

Samina Ali (pictured right), an Indian-born Muslim who lives in San Francisco, curated the exhibition. She is also a novelist and co-founder of Daughters of Hajar, an American-Muslim feminist organisation. Ms Ali spoke to The Economist about the exhibition, the limitations for Muslim women and why change needs to come from inside the Islamic framework.

How did the idea for “Muslima” come about?

This exhibition was inspired by the deeply entrenched fears and misunderstandings people have about Muslims generally, and women specifically. All too often, Muslim women are seen as weak, powerless, subjugated. And there are many misinterpretations about the veil and what it means to individual Muslim women to wear, or not wear, the veil.

We wanted to help reverse those stereotypes and the best way to do that seemed to be to present Muslim women speaking to the complex realities of their own lives—through interviews and art. In the process, they would help dispel stereotypes, curb Islamophobia and build understanding


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