From our continental correspondent – Comics for coexistence
“Bad hijab day” – if there’s one thing that made me cough up my tea from laughing, it’s this concept from a short strip by German cartoonist Soufeina Hamed (I sympathise, I’ve often had “bad bandana days” – Joe).
Hamed is a 24-year old student from Osnabrück in Germany who has been making comics for quite a while now, first with typical big-eyed manga artwork, but lately in a more personal style, not unlike the art found in many alternative, autobiographical comics. She is also a young Muslim woman who freel wears a hijab as part of her religion.
Since this is still predominantly regarded by many in the West as a symbol of the oppression of women by Islam (leading to actual state legislation on religious apparel in public spaces in France), Hamed uses her comics to explain what Islam means to her, and how we should learn to see beyond our differences in order to notice our similarities.
In some of her comics (such as the Wiggle Wisaal story), she explains the basic premises of Islam in a way that children can understand, but other strips focus on more unexpected aspects of Muslim life (see the “bad hijab day”), or questions of identity that stem from living as a Muslim in a Western country.
Hamed’s comics have been covered quite extensibly by local news media, and she even had her work mentioned in the Women in the World Summit. She regularly gives comics workshops in schools, which she also uses to answer questions about her faith and way of life, and to stimulate tollerance and coexistence.
Comics-wise, I think Hamed’s still looking for a consistent voice to combine with a broader story. But when she finds it, the result will be a graphic novel of considerate import, mark my words, a creator to keep an eye on. Meanwhile have a good browse through her Deviant Art page which is full of some great strips and one-off pieces to make you smile and, often, to make you think.