Rania Matar’s project ‘The Veil: Modesty, Fashion, Devotion or Statement?’ provides a uniquely insightful and captivating array of monochrome images, here.
Feeling threatened in a world that sees any Islamic display of piety as suspicious, many Muslims are finding refuge in the overt symbols of Islam, and comfort in belonging to the worldwide Muslim community. The veil, almost nonexistent a few years ago in Lebanon, is making a comeback, even among younger generations and some women with a Western education. Some women described actually feeling liberated and at peace when they wore the hijab. It has different undertones – from religious devotion, to self-assertion vis-à-vis the West, to a fashion accessory – all leading to an underlying social pressure among Muslim women of all ages to wear it.
The beauty of Matar’s photography lies in the reality: the media perpetually portrays hijabis as serious, expressionless automatons – ultimately, other.
Of course, there is no otherness about the hijab – women are united in their love of music, faith, appearance and anxieties.
Matar’s work is a lively reminder of this and I do wish the media would promulgate such vivid images with greater frequency.