Nineteenth century European production in the visual arts included the depiction of the Arab East and West as well as the Ottoman lands and Iran. As is typical of Orientalist art, Arabs and other Muslims were generally depicted as not only exotic but also erotic. Well-known Orientalist painters include Anne-Louis Girodet (1767-1824); Antoine-Jean Gros (1771–1835); Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867); Eugene Delacroix (1798–1863); John Frederick Lewis (1804-76) and William Holman Hunt (1827–1910). While much of the attention to Orientalist paintings is directed to the Middle East and North Africa, this chapter brings focus to another part of the so-called Orient, Indonesia during Dutch colonial rule. It discusses a specific case of Orientalist paintings from the Dutch East Indies of the nineteenth century, that of the Dutch painter, Nicolaas Pienaman’s (1809-1860) depiction of the arrest of the Indonesian hero, Pangeran Diponegoro (1785-1855). This painting is compared to the work of the Indonesian painter, Raden Salleh (1811-1880), whose painting of the same event suggests a counter-Orientalist view.
Many Asian cinemas have de-territorialized, obsequiously promoting the secular, democratic norms of mainstream Hollywood, but the Sultanate of Brunei, with its national philosophy of Melayu Islam Beraja (Malay Islamic Monarchy) and its recent implementation of Sharia Law, would, some western critics apparently expect, push Islamic ideologies for its state-sanctioned media, including traditionally repressive, misogynistic expectations of the “authentic” Muslima (Ahmed, 2003). As with several Middle Eastern countries, such Western critics might suggest, Bruneian women will be forced to cover themselves demurely; abstain from driving, education or other means of self-empowerment; and submit to harsh, court-imposed punishments for sexual promiscuity; with the media duly promoting such norms. At the very least, Brunei’s entertainment media might soon resemble Islamic Turkey’s “Milli cinema,” which “brought Islam back into the movies and showed respect for Islam [and in which a] ‘common theme […] was to show characters that had adopted western values but who became unhappy and unsatisfied by those values” (Yorulmaz and Blizek, 2014, p. 8). What then of Yasmine (dir. Siti Kamaluddin, 2014), a Brunei government-funded film from a female director about a martial arts-obsessed Bruneian schoolgirl who gleefully defies her father, rarely wears a veil, enthusiastically chases boys and drives a racy, eye-catching car? I ask how this national cultural artefact sits within the theocracy’s attempts to maintain its citizenry’s adherence to the tenets of Islam, given its foregrounding of a narrative promoting female self-empowerment? Furthermore, this paper asks why Brunei has failed to ride the digital film-making revolution, to the extent Lacaba states “Brunei has no film industry to speak of” (2000). In conclusion, I propose this recent advance stems from a benevolent monarch’s commendable efforts to modernize, rather than historicize, Islam in Brunei generally and Melayu Islam Beraja, including Sharia Law, specifically.
This chapter offers a sweeping examination of the shifting nature of selected book covers by Iranian writers in English over the last several decades. It highlights how politics, reader and market interests have historically affected book covers. It begins by examining how certain historical perspectives constructed a stereotypical vision which led to a recurring series of covers on books by Iranian and other Middle Eastern writers: namely, that of half-veiled faces of women. Then, pivoting on the controversial 2009 Iranian presidential elections, it highlights how social media introduced a new kind of image about the Middle East leading to changes in book covers. When people on social media began presenting new images of Iran where men and women fight alongside on the streets, women’s visible public presence began to challenge the illusive Western belief of Iranian/Muslim women as passive and private. Iranian women’s public presence, viewed globally, shifted how Iran was seen. Iran was no longer a strictly gender dichotomous society as imagined. Consequently, the lens gazing into Iran became less focused on close up encounters of veiled women. There was now an interest in more overall, current and sweeping narratives of men and women that contextualized contemporary Iranian life. With this new interest, came a new wave of book covers. Almost gone were the half-veiled faces of women, as the new narratives reflected the larger mystery that Western readers were trying to decipher: the Iranian nation as a whole. Consequently, covers began to shift from close ups to overall depiction of the Iranian nation and cities. In some, mysterious cityscapes replaced women’s faces. This paper, traces the socio-political history which led to the shifting nature of book covers by Iranian writers in English from that of half-veiled women to one replaced by the city as a site of desire.
This short contribution explores the history of depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic traditions at the same time as it tackles responses to the 2015 ISIS attacks on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. It aims to show that devotional images of the Prophet have not been historically prohibited in Islamic lands through an analysis of pre-modern jurisprudential texts. The explicit “ban” is instead a distinctly contemporary phenomenon particular to conservative, in particular Saudi-Salafi, spheres. Moreover, a long and rich tradition of prophetic iconography has thrived in Turkish and Persian lands. Such figural representations are examined in order to demonstrate how Muhammad has fulfilled a range of religious, cultural, and social needs over the centuries. After the Danish cartoon controversy of 2005-6, images of Muhammad blossomed once again in Iran, where the government supported a range of artistic efforts to retrieve his legacy and praise his status as the Messenger of God. Thus, while a number of Muslim and non-Muslim discourses promoting an ostensible “ban” of images of the Prophet were loudly present during the 2005-6 and 2015 cartoon controversies, such discourses should be considered essentially a contemporary innovation begotten by ideological and political contestations unfolding on the international stage today.
This chapter analyzes the changing nature of the British news media’s visual representations of the figure of the ‘Islamic’ terrorist across the opening stages of the ‘war on terror’ period. Focusing on images emerging between 2001–2005, its central argument rests on the belief that news media visual representations of the ‘Islamic’ terrorist both draw upon and challenge the simplified, Orientalist-inspired modes of representation and depiction that are considered typical of Western news coverage; something that makes the terrorist seen in diverse, yet highly specific ways. Using visual discourse analysis, the chapter identifies three dominant modes of representation – the figure of the bearded, finger-wagging fanatic, the masked, shadowy militant, and the lone, home-grown extremist – which each provide different ways of seeing and speaking about the phenomenon of ‘Islamic’ terrorism. In doing so, the analysis provides insight into the diverse nature of such depictions, and shows how news media visual representations function to both police and proliferate depictions of terrorism, thus making the terrorist simultaneously visible and invisible within British society.
This contribution examines the social implications of Nawal El-Saadawi’s novel Love in the Kingdom of Oil. Love in the Kingdom of Oil, as well as being an important text about women’s rights concerning the veil in an Islamic nation, is also concerned with the world of oil, and can be classed as an important work of Islamic petrofiction. In this way, Love in the Kingdom of Oil allows El-Saadawi’s overarching message about the visual implications of women wearing the veil to be recaptured in a different contemporary crisis: an environmental one. More than this, in this novel El-Saadawi hints at the fact that one more thing connects oil and woman – the dominance of patriarchy. If the oil industry is a system controlled by patriarchy, El-Saadawi suggests that oil, as an object, is feminine. Oil is objectified and utilized just as women are; on the one hand displayed as commodity and, on the other, kept from sight. This chapter, then, attends to the way in which El-Saadawi challenges the negative visual representation of both the veil and the oil world by exploring the parameters of invisibility and visibility. I argue that El-Saadawi is concerned with challenging preconceptions by making what is usually visible invisible, and vice versa. As such, oil flows freely on the ground instead of underground in pipelines, and women walk around unveiled. This chapter argues that by exploring the limits of women’s visibility and the veil, El-Saadawi makes an important contribution to the conversations of visual imperialism and women’s Muslim identity.