There’s something wrong with the pictures coming out of Pakistan these days.
Ever since Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari reinstated the country’s chief justice, I’ve been trying to figure out what it was.
And then it hit me.
Happiness. Joy. Celebration.
How often do we see pictures of happy Muslim men? What a relief, too, that they were Pakistani.
I’ve developed a theory about the Muslims we see in the media, who are usually from Pakistan.
Angry Bearded Muslim Man is the favourite. Whenever the Muslim world is supposed to be upset or offended, invariably that story is illustrated by images of Angry Bearded Muslim Man: Marching (usually in Pakistan), shouting (fists raised in righteous anger), and burning something (an American flag, an Israeli flag, preferably both!)
His female counterpart is Covered In Black Muslim Woman. She’s seen, never heard. Visible only in her invisibility under that black chador, burqa, face veil, etc.
In those images you have conveyed all you want to say about Muslims: The men are angry, dangerous and want to hurt us; the women are covered in black.
While there are some Muslim men and women who fit both such descriptions they are by no means the majority, and they are utterly insufficient in describing the diversity of views, appearances and attitudes among Muslims. But they make for sexy TV and enticing photos. And they are my biggest competitors and nemeses when I give lectures or appear on television.
My first U.S. TV appearance was on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor. Talk about trial by fire! After the usual back-and-forth yelling, some viewers sent me emails, asking, “Are you sure you’re a Muslim? Where’s the headgear?”
Others wanted to know why I spoke English so well. Clearly, I did not deliver on the Covered In Black Muslim Woman that central casting usually offers to viewers. I was confusing them.
Which brings me back to the happy Pakistanis — men and women — in our newspapers these days.
While I’m the last person to deny the danger of radicals in the Muslim world, I also enthusiastically wave the flag for those of us who call ourselves liberal, secular Muslims.
In other words, I live to confuse you by subverting the stereotype of Muslims that you always see and hear from. Go on — take a look at my picture.
Here’s to more pictures of Happy Muslim Men and Women Who Confuse You.
– Mona Eltahawy is an award-winning Egyptian-born commentator and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues. She reported on the Middle East for 10 years before moving to the U.S.
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