Art and the Veil

The hijab—the veil—is one of the most visual signs of Islam. Many see the scarf and associate it with, well, oppression. Some within the Muslim communities perceive it as a way to determine a Muslim women’s adherence to faith. Amidst all these perceptions, wherever they may come from, are Muslim women who go beyond those discussions and use artistic expression to engage the question of the veil: What does it mean to those who wear it and those who do not?

There are Muslim women artists who attempt to give an answer to that question like Asma Ahmed Shikoh, a Pakistani immigrant who created an exhibit on hijab based on the chapter in the Qur’an “The Bee” to reflect on the veil, Mohja Kahf, the author of The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf a witty novel about Muslim American experience, and Sofia Baig, a young poetess whose poem “Daughter of the Sand” challenges many of the perceptions about what it means to be a Muslim woman.

Too often we fall into the trap of assuming there are only a few possible ways to view Muslim women’s experience as if the veil is all that defines them and as if they don’t have their own complex relationship with their faith. So, we are planning to do an Inside Islam radio show that will complicate the discussion around Muslim women and the veil by looking at Muslim women’s artistic expression on this topic. The names above are possibilities.

Are there other names that could contribute to this discussion? If you know any or have any ideas for this program, please leave a comment!

2 thoughts on “Art and the Veil

  1. Faryal Ahmad (disclosure, my wife) is a wonderful Muslimah artist. From her profile:

    “Growing up in London, I was always surrounded by a buzz that just seemed to inspire me. I wanted to express myself through creativity, colour and movement.

    After working in the world of fashion for a while I decided to listen to my heart and follow my dream of becoming an artist.

    I consider my art to be a mixture of moods and textures. Sometimes pretty, sometimes mysterious and other times wild and abstract.

    As an artist I have grown and my style has evolved over the years, but always, it’s been about creating something unique and exciting. My style continues to evolve and I constantly strive to create more exciting pieces of work.

    I take inspiration from almost anything. The sudden change in weather, the colour of a flower or walking down a high street and smelling food being cooked and hearing the sounds of different music being played, absorbing the vibrant atmosphere of the diversity in London.

    Painting a piece of original art is such a personal creative expression that comes from the heart. I like nothing more than building a picture in my mind and realizing it on canvas.

    Born in Manchester, my family moved down to London when I was just 9 years old. Coming from a Muslim Pakistani background, painting isn’t an area someone like me would usually chose to be in, but I believe my background inspires me even more to be the best I can and to express myself in unique and different ways.”

    You can find her at

    And yes, she observes hijab.