You probably heard back in November that a new character was taking on the moniker of “Ms. Marvel.” That character is one Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim superheroine from New Jersey, the creation of two artists/writers who are themselves Muslim (Sana Amanat and G. Willow Wilson). Kamala made her first appearance in Captain Marvel #14 back in August of last year and is a huge fan of Carol Danvers. In fact, according to Kelly Sue DeConnick, “she is very deliberately placed in a position where she sees Carol protecting civilians from Yon-Rogg.”When Kamala discovers her own powers, she chooses to adopt the Ms. Marvel title in honor of her idol.
Kamala’s first 2014 appearance and her formal debut as Ms. Marvel was in All-New Marvel NOW! Point-One #1, a comic that served as an intro for a number of characters. She now headlines the third volume of Ms. Marvel, which will debut in February. So why am I talking about this? It’s not like she’s the first Muslim superhero on a major imprint, because we’ve had Simon Baz. She’s not even the first Muslim female superhero, if you count Dust, M St. Croix, Faiza Hussain, and others. Again, why am I talking about this?
Because she is so popular. Let me modulate that by saying that she’s popular among the set of people who read Captain Marvel comics, but Captain Marvel #17, in which she is featured, did completely sell out its initial run, inspiring hope for the success of Ms. Marvel Vol. 3. However, there’s a concern to be raised: Does Kamala Khan sell out issues because she’s a sellout? Put another way, is she really the counter to Islamophobia that Muaaz Khan of the Guardian claims her to be?
Last week Lady Geek Girl dedicated this column to a discussion of religious feminism that both celebrated its existence and lamented the lack of representation of messages that are both religious and feminist in nature. This week I’d like to bring to your attention a pretty delightful new TV show that falls firmly under both umbrellas: Burka Avenger.
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.