I am a feminist theologian. To many of you, this may sound like an oxymoron. Just being religious and devout in my faith does not mean I am not a feminist. Furthermore, just because I am a feminist does not mean that I am not religious.
There is a large disconnect between religious feminists and secular (non-religious) feminists, and that disconnect causes a lot of problems. Many religiously-minded feminists become offended at what they see as frankly ignorant critiques of their religion by secular feminists. Most recently, many debates have raged around Muslim women who constantly feel that they have to defend their ideals and religious beliefs to western feminists, especially with certain issues like choosing to wear a hijab.
In pop culture, it is rare to ever see a character who is openly a feminist or even promotes feminist ideals. Religious people are either shown to be radicals or one of the “rare” good religious people. Pop culture shapes how we view the world. Now more than ever, with the rise of groups like Femen, the recent issues between the Catholic Church and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), and the general conflict between religion and feminism in the political world, we need religious feminists in pop culture. People need to know that belief in any sort of deity or deities does not inherently mean a believer supports sexism and oppression.
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.