Acrylics and permanent marker on fashion magazine 46.5x33.5x4cm
Courtesy of Ruth and Juerg Nyffeler, Edition 5, Switzerland
Shahram Entekhabi’s piece “Islamic Vogue”, 2001-2005, openly confronts the question of visibility and Islamic alienation, as raised by the pages of the fashion magazine which dictates the order of the day all over the world on questions of “beauty” and “fashion”, and dictates Western taste. Entekhabi “dresses” the attractive models in the black modest garb of the Muslim woman and drapes their faces with the veil which is an inseparable part of the outfit. For Muslim society, a woman’s religion and definition is tied by an umbilical cord to traditional dress, which lends the Muslim woman a particularly glaring appearance on European streets. Above all, these clothes indicate the difficult meeting of the assimilated culture into the assimilating culture of the Europeans, who view this garb as a symbol of the subjugation of women in the name of religion. Religious zeal is linked in Western minds to fear of terrorism, and so hiding a woman’s face becomes a genuine threat. For Muslims being assimilated into a new society whose values are radically different, traditional dress represents maintaining their religious values.
The piece therefore touches on the raw nerve which has made the bodies of Muslim women, who are in any case torn between the values of their communities and their ability to assimilate into the new culture, a battle ground. In many Western states the question of the Muslim veil has become a central bone of contention between secular governments and the representatives of Muslim communities. In France a prohibition has been enacted against wearing head covering of any kind – even one revealing the face – in schools or any public institution – in the context of the complete separation the Republic enforces between church and state. In Holland the government passed a controversial law entirely forbidding the wearing of veils in public. A number of cities in Belgium have independently prohibited the wearing of veils in public. In Italy the Prime Minister has derided the veil as an obstacle to social cohesion, and wearing it has been prohibited by anti-terror laws which forbid obscuring one’s identity. In Germany four counties have forbidden teachers to teach while wearing a veil.