This past spring, I started work on a series about Muslim women who wear the hijab. My interest in this subject stems from my Religious Studies background, but also facets of the sociological and cultural tensions that have become quite pervasive since 9/11. Several years ago, I watched a 3 day news special called God Warriors in which each night focused on a different Western Tradition (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). During the broadcast about Islam, a woman was interviewed who discussed her interpretation of jihad or personal struggle (the term jihad has taken on quite a skewed perspective by Islamic extremists, and unfortunately, this distortion has become notorious). This woman was a U.S. citizen and wore the hijab. After 9/11, wearing the hijab in public became a form of jihad for her. To wear it without fear and choose to embrace her faith and beliefs in the mist of societal tensions and rising xenophobia became her personal struggle.
This was one of the rare occasions I have heard a first person perspective on the hijab. I have viewed numerous media in which non-Muslisms, academics, or men have discussed the topic, but I was and am unsettled by the lack of the voices of the women who wear the hijab in mainstream media. So, I began working on a portrait series and audio interviews with women who wear the hijab. The purpose is for them to discuss the religious foundation for the hijab, how it has been a part of their life spiritually, religiously, and culturally, and if they have ever faced harassment or prejudice and if so, how did they react and internalize the experience?
As of right now, I have taken a few months hiatus from working on the project due to other work and obligations. I do want to return to this project and find a way to tweak the visual facet to better compliment a few minutes of audio. So, this is the rocky start to a project that will likely be completed in piecemeal for an undetermined amount of time. Below are two of the four portraits and interviews I’ve conducted thus far. Click on the links to hear audio excerpts from the interviews.