Refreshing Muslim heroines ― Faridah Hameed

DEC 16 ― In A world where one-dimensional stereotypes about Muslim women abound, it’s so refreshing to discover that there is a small but growing movement of women editorial cartoonists working to dispel this image.

With dry witty humour, these women from Muslim majority countries are using editorial cartoon strips for social commentary about everything from gender discrimination to AIDS to girls’ education marriage and even suicide bombers.

In Pakistan, there is Gogi — the impossibly long-lashed, pixie haircut coiffed, polka-dot wearing, unveiled young woman who is the alter ego of celebrated female Pakistani cartoonist Nizar Nagar.

In one strip, Nizar shows two friends talking about their birth. “When my grandfather was born, they passed around sweets,” says Gogi’s animated, podgy friend as she salivates over stems of corn. The friend then adds: “When my father was born they passed around cakes.”

Finally, Gogi asks what happened when Mariam, the friend, was born. “They passed out,” Mariam replies coyly.

In a country that remains largely steeped in patriarchical cultural tradition, Nizar is the embodiment of the modern Pakistani woman. She is the CEO of Gogi Studios in Islamabad and between 2002 and 2003, she was a Fulbright Professor at the Art Department of the University of Oregon in the United States.

“Gogi is my mouthpiece,” says Nizar. “She represents the educated, enlightened and progressive women of Pakistan.”

Through Gogi, Nizar has tackled topics such as AIDS, arranged marriages, domestic violence, government corruption and sectarian strife, and even health and hygiene illustrations that she was assigned to do by Unicef.

In Palestine, Omayya Joha’s editorial caricatures reflect a personal story. She suffered Israeli aggression that killed both her first husband and her second husband by denying him the right to seek medical help under the siege.

Omayya does not focus exclusively on women characters. She chooses to reflect the Palestinian struggle, life in refugee camps, Israeli and American foreign policy and the indifference and hypocrisy of many Arab regimes.

She is chairman of Juhatoon cartoon production and works with several newspapers such as Al Quds newspaper (the most popular newspaper in the Palestinian territories) and Al Jazeera’s news website.

When a Danish cartoonist provoked the anger of Muslims with offensive cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Egyptian female cartoonist Rasha Mahdi used the same medium to counter his message.

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Categories: Asia, Humour, Pakistan

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