Positive Representation: Beyond the Veil or Representation Roll Call, Vol 1.

You’ll be happy to hear that this post will lack any of my trademark pretension (lies!). Today, all I want to do is introduce you to a pair of very cool heroines from the Marvel Universe. I say “pair” not just because there are two of them, but because they share so many traits, all of which make them exciting characters. They’re women, they kick ass, they display remarkable loyalty and patience, and they’re both hijabi.

Let me clarify. The term hijab (which appears as حجاب in Arabic)‎ is used specifically to refer to the headscarf worn ostensibly for the sake of modesty. The term can be generalized to refer to any form of cover which conforms to a standard of Islamic modesty. These vary by region and degrees of Islamic orthodoxy—there’s a good list here. The term hijabi is used to refer to women who wear one of these kinds of veils.

So, when I introduce Faiza Hussain (Excalibur) and Sooraya Qadir (Dust) to you, you’ll understand that they wear the veil. What I love best about these characters is that their Islam is not incidental or inconsequential to their heroism. They are proud hijabi heroes.


faiza_hussain_excaliburFaiza Hussain is a British doctor of Pakistani descent, who was performing triage in the middle of a Skrull invasion when she was zapped by a laser and rendered unconscious. When she came to, she had developed powers over living organisms which were effective on the most minute levels. She also wields the legendary sword Excalibur. So, why is she so cool? Because she’s both a capable combatant and a complex character. Her powers enable her to stop a Skrull onslaught and heal the most grave of wounds. She’s counted among Captain Britain’s most trusted allies, and if that weren’t enough, she’s a self-proclaimed superhero fangirl.

Faiza_Hussain_fangirlYes, ladies and gents, in addition to being a kind and caring person, a brilliant doctor, and the superheroic wielder of one of the western world’s most famous weapons, Faiza Hussain is one of us. She’s a complete inclusion success, in my opinion, and you can read her adventures in issues of Captain Marvel and MI:13 and other volumes.


dust_sooraya_qadirSooraya Qadir is a Sunni Muslim mutant from Afghanistan, with a sense of faith and resolve which at least equals her impressive powers, if it doesn’t surpass them. A former member of the Young X-Men and the Hellions, she’s capable of manipulating sand and turning herself into a living sandstorm that can break down steel and tear flesh from the human form, among other powers like an extreme durability and a resistance to psychic manipulation. While impressive, it’s not only this power which makes Dust such a compelling character. Rather, it is her role as a representative of Islam in the comics that makes her storylines worth reading. Sooraya’s faith is her motive to stand up to Xorn and to fight Belasco and the demons of Limbo. It is this same faith, coupled with loyalty to her teammates and her new home (the Xavier Institute), that gives her the courage to face down and defeat William Stryker’s Purifiers. For her, Islam is a source of power and pride.

sooraya_qadir_dust_noriko_ashida_surge_argueHer conflicts with her erstwhile roomate, Noriko Ashida (Surge), a rebellious electrokineticist of Japanese descent, allow her to serve as a sort of raisoneuse for a modern, self-empowering perspective on an Islamic woman’s choice to cover. In fact, her presence is itself an argument for the strength and dignity of Muslim women. You can read more about Dust in a variety of X-Men titles.

sooraya_qadirI feel like a lot of time gets spent pointing out the errors that companies like Marvel make in terms of inclusion, representation, racism, sexism, and the like. It’s equally important to raise the profile of killer examples of positive inclusion. If you’d like to know more about Muslim superheroes in comics, there are resources all over, including this March Madness style contest to see who is the top Islamic hero. Guess who won?

4 thoughts on “Positive Representation: Beyond the Veil or Representation Roll Call, Vol 1.

  1. Awesome article. Your knowledge of obscure superheroes is impressive. These two characters definitely need more attention. However, I feel that badassery may defeat the intention of the hijab. That’s not my opinion; I’m just throwing it out there.

    • Thank you!

      I do have to say that I hope that badassery doesn’t defeat the point of hijab, which can be a number of things, but seems to be primarily about modesty. Certainly we’d agree that modesty and badassery are not mutually exclusive.

      Thanks again.

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