For Week 12, we read two of my favorite stories: Persepolis and Sultana’s Dream. I had read Persepolis years before, but found it still just as powerful, the images and narrative a timeless way to communicate to a larger audience. Inspired, I decided to use the comic (my rudimentary attempts compared to Marjane Satrapi) as a medium for conveying the messages that I have learned in AIU54.

Scan copy




I was inspired to draw this due to some of my experiences outside this class but related to the perception of Islam in America. The first incident depicted in the comic is when I flipped through a recent TIME Magazine whose cover blared about the TALIBAN, the tagline bringing up the sweet spots of women’s rights and democracy, pitting the ISLAMIC fighters up against two of the most prized values in American, and Western, society. It is no surprise then, with my second incident, where my friend was warning me that “ISLAM IS SCARY.” Yet I realize that he is not too much out of the ordinary, as most of what Post 9/11 America knows of Islam is generalized across the violence and tension seen through terrorism.

Then, in the comic, I bring up some of my previous experiences with Islamic culture (my friends who are Muslim or visiting some mosques/durgahs when I was in India two summers ago), emphasizing the friendship and beauty of those two exposures to the culture. I also dispute the ridiculousness of arguing that an entire religion is SCARY, an entire people who occupy countries all of the world.

I point out that there are many different “flavors” of Islam, very much in line with the cultural studies approach that we have been learning, from the two differing types of architecture–the regal of the Dome of the Rock to the natural of the Great Mosque of Djenne–to the two differing types of religious devotion, meditation, and spiritual transcendence–the excitement of the Whirling Dervishes (can also be interpreted as the Damba dance we talked about in class) to the serenity and peacefulness of prayer.

And there are many other words to describe Islam other than SCARY. One of my favorite aspects is that it is social justice oriented, alluding to some of the hadiths we talked about in class that call the submitters to serve, to help others. And of course I also bring up some of the ideas that we learned about Islamic art we learned in class, from the moth-flame or nightingale imagery of love, of poetry, as a harmonium/pump organ that is often used in qawwalis, and an attempt at an arabesque/geometric shape to represent the many different types of art that we have studied.

I hope that with comics like these or with words that the other students write, Islam will no longer be perceived as just SCARY, a lot of different things, more positive words, like beautiful, kind, loving, devotional. This can help prevent future clashes of civilizations, and potentially encourage more synergy and teamwork in the global society.

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