Friday, May 28, 2010

Character of Note: Princess Hijab

I never wanted to be a nobody. But as it turns out, sometimes it is better to be hidden under that dark night, instead of in the spotlight.

'By being nobody, she is free to be anybody.'

Her alias: Princess Hijab

Her objective: Destabilizing mass media by "hijab-izing" the figures in advertisements and billboards.

Her weapons of choice: black spray paint and a black marker.

By day, Princess Hijab is a simple 21 year old woman living out what I assume is a normal life. By night, however, she is an anonymous guerrilla street artist based in Paris, France since 2006. PH's "artistic jihad," as some have called it, has stirred up quite the controversy in France. The country is the perfect location because it provides an obvious political context for the street artist. After all, France has been basically pushing for secularism ever since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, but more recently, it has been challenging the hijab after three Muslim girls were suspended from their high school in a suburb of Paris, for not removing their headscarves in 1989.

The barely-covered figures that were once used in "regular ads," for anything from perfume to underwear, are transformed by the Princess into figures in black veils, eyes emerging from a dark niqab. She also posts "hijab ads" in public spaces and continues to ruffle the feathers of the French government and religious groups alike.

There is much speculation about the identity of the Princess and, more specifically, her religious background. She had claimed to be a 21-year-old Muslim girl, but recently stated that she is not a Muslim in a German newspaper.

PH is mainly influenced by anti-consumerism and is persistent in separating her work from conservative culture jammers and Muslim groups.

"I am using the hijab for myself."

Indeed, this seems extremely true because the Princess does not cover the entire figure in a black veil, as a Muslim woman would be covered. Instead, she often chooses to leave the sexy, and often bare, legs revealed to the public. Moreover, PH does not only hijab-ize female models, but male models as well, confusing her critics and her fans.

“People are confused by me. Some say I am pro-feminist, some say I am antifeminist; some say I am pro-Islam, others that I am anti-Islam. It’s all very interesting—but at the end of the day, I am above all an artist.” 

Interestingly enough, a blogger of Muslimah Media Watch, Ethar El-Katatney, wrote, “I’d actually love it if it turns out she’s not a Muslim, because it lends credibility to the idea that the dislike of being exposed to ‘visual aggression’ is not necessarily rooted in religious belief. Fed up with women being used to sell products, hijabizing ads could be a way to ‘take back’ women’s rights to their bodies.”

The anonymity of Princess Hijab is what throws me off the most. I feel that knowing her identity would explain her art much more. Is she a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Atheist or what? Is she even a woman or just a man in disguise?

There are so many unanswered questions, but I suppose that is what makes it all the more interesting. Personally, I would love it if she was a Muslim. It would open up quite a few doors to Muslims and show them that it is possible to make a difference, to change the world, even by being a nobody.

Whatever or whoever Princess Hijab is, she has certainly managed to cause quite that stir in the media and in political and religious contexts.

Until next time...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Perfection: The Imperfect Goal

“The search for perfection begins with detecting imperfection.”

 -Unknown Author

Perfection is the goal that keeps us from all other goals. It is the obstacle I face whenever I am motivated to do something productive, especially when it comes to Islam. I always hope and dream to be a better Muslim, planning the next step to increase my iman, to become the 'perfect Muslimah.' 

But at that exact moment, the moment of clarity, the moment I realize I want to, no, NEED to become closer to Allah (swt), NEED to obey his commands, NEED to get into Jannah, I am slapped in the face by reality: there is no possible way I am going to be a perfect Muslim. I am so utterly imperfect that perfection shouldn't even be in my vocabulary. How can I possibly just change overnight? How can I learn all the rules and etiquettes of Islam and apply them to my life, all day, every day? How can I erase my tainted past? The answer is simple. 

I can't. 

I can't be perfect, not a perfect Muslim, not a perfect anything. And that is what gets in my way. I feel defeated and hopeless. All my hopes and dreams of being a better Muslim are thrown out the window and I watch them slowly fall towards the earth and shatter to pieces. It's a never-ending cycle, because by the time I am able to put the pieces back together, I once again realize my impossible goal and throw everything back out the window. 

But not this time, Inshallah, because I realized that my goal of perfection was in fact my obstacle. Instead of aiming to be the perfect Muslim, I am simply going to try and be a better Muslim today than I was yesterday, even if it means doing one more thing than the day before, even if it means one extra smile. I will tweak myself, one imperfection at a time. 

Alhamdulillah, today I took a step I wanted to take for a long time: writing about Islam. I was afraid of what people would think, wonder why I, of all people, was writing about religion, the girl who doesn't even wear a hijaab, the girl who probably seems that exact opposite of religion, the girl who isn't perfect enough to write about Islam. But I realized I was getting in the way of my own realistic goal. This blog is, first and foremost, a motivation for myself, something I can use to track my thoughts, my goals, my hopes of becoming a better Muslim. And if someone else can take something positive from my writing, then Alhamdulillah. 

May Allah (swt) guide us all to the straight path and help us climb the staircase to Jannah.


Until next time...