The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 27th

Event hosts discussion on Muslim women in media

Hammer, the Kenan Rifai Scholar of Islamic Studies, will open the floor for discussion on this tonight at Flyleaf Books at her talk entitled “Muslim Women in the Media.” The talk is part of the Humanities in Action series, put on by UNC’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values.

“Everyone will tell you the going assumption is that Muslim women are oppressed and not just by patriarchal society, but from Islam as a religion,” Hammer said. “I am interested in challenging that in several ways.”

The event will focus largely on the visual representation of Muslim women and the stereotypes that exist in Western ideologies. The topic works well with the Humanities in Action’s spring theme of religion in America.

“We picked religion this semester because it’s the stuff you’re not supposed to talk about around the (dinner) table,” said Max Owre, interim director of the Program in the Humanities.

“We want to give those issues a contentious environment and more room to breathe.”

Hammer said the issue can be discussed in the context of predominant Muslim female activist Malala Yousafzai, known for her efforts for advancement of education rights for Pakistani women, as well as for surviving an assassination attempt in 2012.

“The issues I see with her representation, along with other women who assert agency and step into more active roles in media representation — they always get forced to step into frames that are already there,” she said.

Hammer said the frames she discusses are the fixed stereotypes of Muslim women in media, which portray them solely as a victim or as a sign of championing oppression.

She also said these frames lead society to ask the question, “Do Muslim women need saving?” which is what Hammer says is a part of the problem.

“It’s an awareness of multiplicity, not reducing one woman to what all (Muslim women) have to say,” she said.

“They are as diverse as everyone else, and instead they are used to further political objectives.”

Hammer said she hopes to use the conversation to examine Muslim women with a critical perspective and in a more global context.

Linnie Greene, the publicity and marketing manager at Flyleaf, said she has been pleased with the relationship built with the Program in the Humanities.

“We had an event space and they wanted to expand off campus, but it has become a lot more than that,” Greene said. “They have been focusing on larger global issues that edify our community.”

Following the lecture, there will be a question and answer session where attendants are encouraged to dive into — and even challenge — the topic.

“We don’t do it on campus for a reason,” Owre said. “We’re taking the University’s scholarship off campus and into the public.”


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