Calling all Hijabistas!
British-Iranian artist Sara Shamsavari will be taking her Veil project on the road to Toronto April 3-7, 2015. Shamsavari is the artist behind the New York Veil | Paris Veil | London Veil series, a stunningly beautiful exploration of the hijab, the Islamic veil, and the women who wear it.
Shamsavari’s photo shoot comes on the heels of a particularly difficult moment in the hijab’s place in Canadian society, during an election year where politicians of all stripes have stoked the fires of partisanship, provoking a moral and cultural panic, instrumentalizing ideas of a feminism of exclusion and harnessing the veil’s meaning, real or imagined, to rally votes and secure seats in Quebec and elsewhere in the country.
Shamsavari’s Toronto visit comes at a moment when Muslimahs have been subjected to concerted harassment campaigns by some in the media (and support from others), by institutions and by their fellow citizens for wearing the veil.
Women like Dalila Awada, who persistently argued that she – and other Quebecois Muslimahs like her – are far more than the sum of their veil. Awada fought valiantly against a feminism of exclusion, against harassment by the media and politicians alike, and against a double discourse that sought to both slut-shame her and paint her as an oppressed woman.
Or Sarah Hagi, a freelance writer (whose insights in wearing the veil for The Toast and Medium are a smart, light-hearted read), who recently called out Prime Minister Harper at the height of the #DressCodePM on Twitter. “Do you like how my hijab matches my mug of your male tears?” asked Sarah. “Stop telling women how to dress @pmharper #dresscodePM.” Much like Awada before her, Sarah was in a single breath slut-shamed and denounced as a faux-feminist by Toronto Star journalist Tarek Fatah, who tweeted, “Hijabi @geekylonglegs, u’re an exhibitionist trying to attract opposite sex while faking feminism; piety.”
Or Rania El-Alloul, who made national headlines when she was denied the right to wear the hijab in traffic court. El-Alloul later told CBC News, “When I swore by God to be a good Canadian citizen I was wearing my hijab, and the judge, I shook hands with him the same day I became Canadian. I was really very happy. But what happened in court made me feel afraid. I felt that I’m not Canadian anymore.”
And although Shamsavari’s New York Veil | Paris Veil | London Veil series is much more about the elevation of beauty and truth which “seek to encourage ideals of non-judgement, equality, unity in diversity and collective responsibility,” than it is strictly about politics, the representation of a veiled Muslimah is itself an act of resistance, courage, and political affirmation.
As Shamsavari told StyleAble, “The project is neither as a critic nor an advocate of the hijab, but exists rather to recognise and celebrate its participants as strong, vital individuals who manage to shine, despite the struggles of youth, womanhood and prejudice they may receive as a result of the visibility of their faith.”
And so to all Canadian Hijabistas: we see you, we recognize you. We stand by you.
To participate in Sara Shamsavari’s Toronto photoshoot, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about Sara’s work.