Tackling Islamophobia through unifying portraits

It’s time to shift the conversation on the Muslim identity, says NATIVE VML.

Islamist extremism has wreaked havoc in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and the US. Terror attacks like the kidnapping of over 200 girls in Chibok, Nigeria and the massacre that saw 147 people killed in Kenya’s Garissa University left people all over the world feeling hopeless. Unfortunately, the anger and fear left behind by these events has been directed at the non-extremist Muslim community. NATIVE VML partnered with People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), a South African non-profit, to start a campaign that aims to address the intolerance directed at the Muslim community.

Under the hashtag #IAmMuslim, the initiative hopes to address Islamophobia. The initiative creates powerful imagery using portraiture. Muslim women wearing a traditional Islamic hijab, fashioned after the flag of their home country, challenges the perceptions of the Muslim identity.

“Juxtaposing these two symbols creates such a strong impact and challenges the assumptions people have about Muslim identity,” says PASSOP’s Tendai Bhiza.

The portraits were made of various Muslim women, and will be used in an outdoor, print and social media campaign.

“We are fully aware that certain quarters may find these images controversial, but the point of this movement is to challenge the prejudices people may have, and change the way we think about a culture that has been unjustly defined by the actions of a select few,” said Ryan McManus, Executive Creative Director at NATIVE VML.

NATIVE VML hopes that this campaign will inspire people in other countries to create similar images. McManus added, “In this era of divisive rhetoric and rampant hate speech online, we need unifying images like these now more than ever.”

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