A mural in Melbourne that formed part of the #IAmMyOwnGuardian campaign, launched by Saudi-Australian artist Ms. Saffaa, was found vandalised yesterday. A product of the collaboration of several artists, the mural took months to complete and probably minutes to deface. 

Ms. Saffaa’s work often depicts Saudi women in the traditional headdress of men in Saudi Arabia, the shmagh. In English or Arabic, the words, “I am my own guardian”, are overlaid on the images. Her work is iconic of the campaign to end male guardianship, and the mural was a triumph not only of the campaign, but also of solidarity among feminists, activists, and artists from different parts of the world. Such a public display of art and activism helped give me the courage to add my voice to the movement to end male guardianship.

Ms. Safaa herself put into words one of the many reasons the attack on the mural was so heartbreaking. In wondering what to tell the Saudi women represented in the work, she asked, “You have to fight the misogynist men back home and the Islamophobic racist bigots in this country?”

Her question resonated with me; it articulated a reality that I often find too frustrating to put into words. As a woman who wants equal rights, I am unwelcome in Saudi Arabia. As a person of Muslim heritage,* I am unwelcome in the “West”. I face discrimination on both fronts because of two accidents of my birth: a vagina and a Saudi father.

To see the defaced mural in Melbourne evoked familiar feelings in response to discrimination at home and abroad. The vandals had literally covered the women’s faces in black paint and painted over their words – a different kind of attempt to veil and silence Saudi women.

But to see the defaced mural in Melbourne, created by a group of inspiring feminists, activists, and artists, has also strengthened my resolve as a feminist, an activist, and in my own way, an artist. Even damaged, Ms. Saffaa’s work will continue to inspire the fight against discrimination against women – by misogynists and Islamophobes alike.

See more of Ms. Saffaa’s work here.

*I use this somewhat wordy phrase in lieu of,”As a Muslim”, because I want to highlight Islam as something I inherited, rather than chose. Even though there are a variety of levels of religiosity observed among those born Muslim, from atheism to ISIS, we are all assumed to fall into the latter category.

2 thoughts on “Misogyny at Home, Islamophobia Everywhere Else

  1. Re: “As a woman who wants equal rights, I am unwelcome in Saudi Arabia. As a person of Muslim heritage,* I am unwelcome in the “West”.

    Any bias against ‘Muslim heritage’ is very sad. But what is unwelcome is Quanic/Mohamedic values, not Muslim-heritage. I don’t know, are white Caucasian Muslims treated differently? I frequently have heated exchanges with a white English Muslim convert on Twitter over ideology.

    Also, Muslims, or islamic values/practices, being unwelcome is not particular to the West. I point to Myanmar, Russia, parts of India and West China. When you say Muslim-heritage what do you mean, as it is easy to discriminate between Arabs, Burmese/Bangladeshis, Eurasian Steppe, Chinese based on physical features? Are you referring to Muslim dress apparel?

    The word ‘Islamophobe’ is a crock, as it means an irrational fear of Islam, but Islam is an ideology; when, having read much of the Quran and seen the behaviour of many of its adherents fighting in the name of the ideology, there is nothing at all irrational about opposing the Quranic/Mohamedic movement with its values.

    I reckon ‘Anti-Muslim’ or ‘Muslim-critic(al)’ is a more accurate and useful term with respect to discussions. Importantly, it doesn’t involve ‘phobic’ which implies irrationality and is used to halt discussion. I would still hold that It is still as acceptable to be anti-Muslim in the same sense as it is to be anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, anti-atheist, anti-judaist, anti-Tory, anti-Republican, anti-monarchist, anti-Capitalist, anti-Marxist, anti-astrologist etc.

    It was a beautiful piece of art, I hope it can be restored.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have often thought about this, too. My husband is an atheist Egyptian who is prosecuted in Egypt for being an atheist and faces suspicion in the west for being a ‘Muslim’. Thank you for writing this piece, it’s something that needs mentioning a lot more.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s