Qahera and the Muslim Woman Narrative

Curator's Note

The Egyptian webcomic Qahera challenges the tiresome “oppressed Muslim woman” stereotype. But does it reclaim Muslim women’s narratives from a personalized perspective? Despite folding in 2015, its international popularity has endured as a resistant anecdote in debates on Muslim women, which are often dominated by non-Muslims. It is also relevant in the current era with news of the burkini and hijab bans in France, as well as attempts to ban the niqab in citizenship ceremonies in Canada. The protagonist is a veiled Muslimah superhero who fights sexisim, racism and Islamophobia. Since comics are a rich source for semiotic analysis, Qahera provides a perfect example of how an icon like the veil can be directly challenged for its dominant meaning. A telling entry is the “Femen Protest” where the protagonist, “Qahera” (named after the Egyptian city) angrily interrupts a protest at a mosque held by the Ukranian feminist group, FEMEN. When they try to “save” her, she uses her lasso to catch them all before she hangs them over a cliff before stating, “Hey, so feel free to rescue me anytime… the question is who’s going to rescue you?” Another entry sees her hanging an Islamic cleric out to dry after he instructs his followers to “keep your women at home”. The comics are illustrated in black and white and employs literary tropes such as irony, humor and metaphor to make its points. It even recreates images from the Arab Spring before providing commentary on the subjugation of women. This is important when one considers that Egyptian female protestors were a source of debate during the Arab Spring. By using the superhero archetype, Qahera utilizes superhuman strength to fight what is arguably both internal and external battles. It also has the flare of adding a double meaning to the term “social justice warrior”, making Qahera a timely webcomic of our age.  

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