Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A synopsis from the pages of Ms. Marvel

Women’s Civil Rights in Islam: A Synopsis From the Pages of Ms. Marvel

younerdlikeagirl

The Women’s Rights Movement in Islam is a fight for more than equality and freedom. It, in some ways, is a fight for humanity. The Western world has been put on notice that the women of Islam will no longer suffer the indifference of cruel and stubborn men. We see it everyday in our high schools and malls. Young Muslim women wear colorful hijab and dazzling outfits equipped with Gucci bags and Air Jordans. We hear it in their poetry through the voices of those like Suheir Hammad and Amal Kassir. We see it on the streets of Tehran and Bahrain. Social media has made it impossible to ignore. Sites like Wikileaks and Instagram have given a face to this head covered revolution.

The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf by Mohja Kahf gives us a haunting description of growing up Syrian-American. When I picked the book up in 2006, I needed it to reaffirm my faith as a practicing converted Muslim. In its pages you can find similarities in almost every civil rights movement in modern history. Couple that with the struggles of assimilation in a society that perceives diversity as a weakness, and you have the basis for a constitution.

sheikh

This is why Ms. Marvel is more than a comic book. When it was first announced that Marvel would give the secondary title a much needed make-over, most of us were skeptical. In the film age of Avengers and The Dark Knight, there seems to be very little space for the lesser-known heroes. Most of the big companies are keeping their cash grabs going by reissuing past story arcs for future films and keeping the public interested in what the studios are putting out on the silver screen. But Marvel gave writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona a chance to do something out of the ordinary. The result is the tale of Kamala Khan, a teenage girl from Jersey City. She lives in world that doesn’t truly see her for who she is. At school, she and her friend Nakia are the subject of ridicule from the female Flash Thompson, Zoe Zimmer. She is not allowed to spend time with boys. Her parents, although not restricting her to strict Sharia law, do not give her the independence she believes she deserves. Her brother Aamir loves her, but is focused on prayer and devotion to Allah. Did I mention that she is nerd? This twist allows us, the reader to fall in love with this character on a very base level. Readers can connect with her through the awkwardness of being a teenager or by being a social outcast in school. She is everyone. Her accessibility gives her a human feel that most comics lack, for obvious reasons. She is empowering. Her character sees the hypocrisy in gender bias and questions it outright. This alone makes her a hero.

But Kamala is obsessed with the Avengers. She daydreams of battles with intergalactic invaders and wants nothing more than to change into her hero, Captain Marvel.

Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!
Kamala draws inspiration from the same heroes we do. Justiiiiice!

One night, her wish comes true. She transforms into Ms. Marvel, a super human with the ability to change her shape. How fitting. Whether as a nerd, woman, or culturally disenfranchised youth she dreamed of acceptance. Her newly found powers allow her to be anything she wants physically, but she remains the same inside.

Kamala sneaks out to a party that her parents forbid her to go to. Once there a strange mist envelopes her and she is greeted by the Avengers, speaking Urdu! They tell her that they are of faith, and speak all languages of beauty and hardship. This type of writing gives this book the type of authenticity it needs to be impactful. If Wilson decided to attack Islam for its treatment of woman alone, the book would take a preachy and holier-than-thou stance that would immediately offend. But this book doesn’t do that, it shows both sides, from the inside of an Islamic Masjid where women are separated in prayer, to the dinner table of a family with first generation westerners. Her first act of heroism saved the life of her mean-girl tormentor, Zoe Zimmer. This selfless act will shape the type of hero she will become. Wilson could have easily made her first heroic act saving the life of a Muslim kid in the midst of being victimized by a hate crime. But that would be the easy way out. In saving her perceived enemy this book takes a traditional Islamic pretense, to offer enemies love, from Al-Mumtahana, and that saving one life is like saving an entire people, from Al-Maida.

Sometimes, the bullies that affect us the worst are those that think they are being good people.
Sometimes, the worst bullies are those that think they are being good people.

The reality of our world is harsh. Women in most countries on this planet are subjugated to cruelty and treated as subservient. And before our glorious Stars and Stripes have their say, let’s not forget the shadow it still casts on our history. The Slavocracy of the South and Jim Crow laws that proceeded allowed for the ownership, rape and torture of African American women. Hell, the ruling class didn’t even allow their women to vote until 1920 and sexual health issues are still being fought today on a Congressional level. But Ms. Marvel is a glimmer of hope in a small pocket of our society. It’s pages are meant to inspire the oppressed, and objectified. Bravo for Marvel Comics, and Al-ḥamdu lillāh.

Ms. Marvel #1

Below is my review of issue #3 that I wrote for the weekly reviews (see all the week’s reviews here). The five part introduction to the new Ms. Marvel is entitled Meta-Morphosis. I suggest you purchase from comiXology or support your local comic book shop and strike a conversation with the guy behind the counter!

Ms. Marvel #3 – A
I can already envision the “What if” issue where Zoe Zimmer drowns. Tell me you saw the somewhere on the west side ave JC electronics sign or you noticed the sarcastic look on the New Jersey pigeons? This book screams of nuance. More than the cultural tension of growing up Muslim so close to Manhattan, I find the awkwardness of being a teenager compelling. Kamala frantically searches the web for answers…”Super-powers, Shape-shifting powers, Woke up as a polymorph, Embiggening. Come on interwebs, don’t fail me now–I can’t be the first person this has happened to–” The book feels real because we would ALL do the same thing. Still subservient in a world where woman are not allowed to worship with their male counter parts, Kamala struggles to find her purpose. It’s been a while since we have seen a hero’s genesis story. Watching Kamala awkwardly try to control her powers is like watching an eager tadpole.

After responding to his text, she heads to the Circle Q to meet Bruno. When she looks in the window she notices a masked man flashing a gun. Assuming that he’s being held up, she springs into action and makes a magnificent declaration.
“I am 911!”
“Strange things are afoot at the Circle Q.”

Shout out to the Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure quote from Bruno.
Kamala learns a valuable lesson about being a hero this issue, if she makes it out alive she won’t make the same mistake again.

Post originally from John Soweto’s blog

Comic Book Reviews 02-05-14

Review Scale:

The mythical A+: Classic comic book material. Belongs next to your copy of The Notebook and The Joy of Cooking.

A: Would definitely recommend to all comic book readers. Even more so to fans of the genre or characters

B: Enjoyable read. Fans of the genre or characters will especially like.

C: Non-essential read. Can be enjoyable for fans of the genre or characters, but likely for only one or two events in the books.

D: Unenjoyable book. Read at your own risk. Might find satisfaction if major flaws are overlooked.

F: Please don’t buy this book. Donate your money to a local comic book writer’s workshop instead to inspire future generations to write something better than this trash.

Pick of the Week:

IMG_3839

Ms. Marvel #1 – A

Take away the costumes, super-powers and alter-egos – we read comic books to find a relatable issue that is dealt with in ways that we simply cannot. Every once in a while, though, we get a special kind of book that inspires us to deal with those issues without using super-powers or high-tech gadgetry. That book is Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan is everything you have never read in a comic book. She is a young, Muslim woman. Growing up in a matriarchal Muslim family, I could relate to every inside joke, every snide comment. There are really no good or bad guys (okay, that’s a lie; obviously Ms. Marvel is a good guy), there’s just life. To be honest, thanks to the always amazing G. Willow Wilson (Cairo, Alif the Unseen), I forgot that this was even a book about a superhero. Do yourself a solid and buy this book, you will not regret it. – S

Other Reviews:

DC/Vertigo:

Forever Evil #5 – A

Never in my life would I think that Batman would be in a position to take orders from Lex Luthor. Well, that’s just what happened in Forever Evil #5. I’ve never found myself rooting for Luthor, Captain Cold, Black Adam or Sinestro, but the bad guys have turned into the good guys as they begin to “eradicate” the Crime Syndicate. The best part of the issue, by far, has to be Sinestro. He puts the hurt on Power Ring, and has a flirtatious conversation with Batman about using the yellow ring. We also end on somewhat of a major cliffhanger. Forever Evil has been a solid book so far, but for the first time in this storyline, I’m genuinely excited for the next installment. – S

Green Arrow #27 – B+

Thanks to the work of Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino, Green Arrow is a complete turnaround of what it was just a year ago. The current arc, The Outsiders War, puts Green Arrow in the middle of a war between all the clans. You’ll be horribly out of touch if you haven’t been following Outsiders War, starting issue #26. There is a lot happening in this book, so even if you haven’t been following the story, the way the creative use of every spot available on the page to tell this epic story will be enough to sell you on Green Arrow. – S

Forever Evil: Arkham War #5 – B

I will admit, yes, the Arkham War story has been not much more than an over-the-top slug-fest between Batman’s rogues gallery. But the last few episodes have really opened up a great storyline for Bane and Scarecrow, both of whom are in a struggle to control the Talons. Bane is pretty much the man now, adorning himself in makeshift Batman armor. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen in comics recently, and I can only hope they make a figure out of it. Scarecrow, on the other hand, has a much more interesting approach on defeating Bane, and I found myself genuinely interested in this series that I thought was nothing more than a poor man’s No Man’s Land. – S

Joker’s Daughter #1 – B-

This week’s DC one-shot was truly disturbing.  Joker’s Daughter introduces a teenaged girl who calls herself “Joker’s Daughter”.  She takes us through her very twisted world after the supposed “death” of The Joker in Death of the Family.  And when I say twisted, I mean some of the creepiest stuff I have ever seen.  Not only does she enjoy torture, pain and murder, she also seems to have some, ahem, daddy issues.   In this recount, we are reminded that the girl isn’t really The Jokers’ daughter, but forces herself to believe she is when she finds his flesh mask floating in the sewers below Gotham City.  As she traipses through the city with The Joker’s face strapped to her own tortured face and causing mayhem where ever she goes, it was hard not to want to know what this insurgent will get her hands into next.  She is a little mesmerizing and that makes the reader just a little sympathetic to her neurosis, although it is of note that she is not nearly as much as we are to Harley Quinn in any adaptation.  This issue was almost entirely female produced which is a huge testament on how the comic book world is changing, and for the best. – A

Trillium #6 – D+

Trillium has been somewhat of a roller-coaster ride thus far. It started off on a really high note, introducing a new world, illustrated and written by Jeff Lemire. Time travel, plagues and a magic flower – I was ready for the ride. Lately, though, there has been so much build-up and confusion that I’m beginning to lose interest. We spend the entire issue #6 explaining what could have been shown in a few pages. None of this was made any easier to swallow by the fact that I read this digitally and the flipped orientation of the pages made this a real chore to read on ComiXology. One saving grace was the conversation that Nika had with her mother about being scared and alone. Otherwise, I’m just glad this series will be wrapping up; unless Lemire can really bring something to the table in the next few issues, I’ll be wishing I went back in time to not pick this series up at all. – S

Detective Comics #28 – D

If you had your hopes up for this new Gothtopia arc, you can consider yourself let down right now. The idea behind Gothtopia is that the Scarecrow has brain-washed the city of Gotham to make everybody think that things are safe and shiny, when really, the rogues are running things. It’s a great idea that’s so poorly executed I don’t know that I can bring myself to read another issue. The writing seems horribly forced and out of character for a Batman book. While Gotham keeps pretending to be a nice place, it seems that Batman is the one pretending in this issue. – S

Dynamite Entertainment:

 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter #1 – C

If you ever wanted to know what the Native American version of the O.C. would look like, then Turok is for you. There was nothing that made any sense in relation to the N64 game other than the look of the character. It had even less to do with the PS3 reboot apart other than both having dinosaurs. Turok is riddled with weird design decisions. From the teenage drama to the dinosaurs controlled by crusaders, where is this comic going? I am not sure I am thrilled about the initial direction this book is taking but I am such a fan of the video-game that I owe it to myself to at least see where they take things. – R

 

Marvel:

The Punisher #1 – A

With the start of this new story arc of The Punisher, Frank Castle is back in full swing and as bad-ass as ever. In this comic, they definitely stay true to the character and what he stands for – shooting people, creating massive explosions, feeding people to crocodiles – all are in The Punisher’s to do list for this issue. What I particularly like about this comic is that it has an overall tone of harsh justice and “punishment” yet it doesn’t seem too dark and gloomy. I’m really excited to see where this story will progress to and what is in store for the upcoming issues. Perhaps one of the best quotes to come out of this issues is as follows: “That’s why we need The Punisher around here. More than we need the Avengers.’ ‘How’s That?’ ‘Because everyone isn’t afraid of the Avengers.” WHOA, that’s scary, and that is exactly what this comic is showing you. It is showing you The Punisher as he is, a man people should fear.  – E 

Black Widow #3 – B

Black Widow isn’t building much in story, but each issue is exciting.  This week, we found Natasha in Argentina doing a prison break.  It really would be nice if in next week’s issue SPOILER ALERT, that her mission did not go south.  The same storyline is already getting old.  However, this week in her voiceover, Natasha tells us about home.  It really beautifully written, giving the audience something more substantial to hold on to about her character.  And as always, the artwork is stellar.  – A

Wolverine #1 – B

Wolverine is Dead….. or is he? This isn’t the Wolverine that we all know and love. Killable has left him stripped of his mutant healing factor. What we have this time around is combat armor that makes it appear like nothing has changed. I can’t help but feel like we have been here before; this will be the third time that Wolverine will have lost his healing factor that I can remember off the top of my head. The idea of killing him is interesting but I still don’t think it compares to things like the Hulk ripping him in half and throwing the pieces a mile apart. As far as the current plot goes, Sabertooth is still around causing trouble but Wolverine has a new group of people he is mixing in with. If history is any indication of the future, Wolverine will be back to his old self in no time. Besides it’s not like he doesn’t have 5 other books that have his normal persona instead. – R

New Avengers #14 – B-

The New Avengers have been building up to and fighting off some type of ridiculous galactic force since the series began. Earth’s elite minds are now preparing for another apocalypse, and it seems like Dr. Strange is the only one willing to sacrifice it all to save it all. There are some pretty graphic scenes in the book, but I couldn’t really tell if it happened in an alternate reality, or not at all. My gripe with this book all along has been the over-complication of the storyline, and this issue doens’t really clear up much more than it provokes new questions. The spotlight of Dr. Strange is great though, so i would recommend readers to spend a little change for something Strange.  – S

Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 – B-

With the crazy awesome attention that Loki’s character has gotten, thanks to the fine acting of Tom Hiddleston, so it seemed only natural that the God of Mischief would get his own book. This Loki is oddly estranged compared to the one in comic book’s past, and that’s for good reason. Apparently, someboy did a good ‘ol Civil War on the Asgardian and this title Loki isn’t the “real” Loki. However, the jerk with the ridiculous helmet is back, and he is drawn in such a way that I can’t help but feel frightened for the The Avengers and the rest of Midgard. It was a bit confusing, but I’m totally into whatever happens next. – S

All-New Invaders #2 – C+

This week’s issue of All-New Invaders still impressed heavily with the artistic aspect of the comic. However, it simply wasn’t as action packed and thrilling as the first issue was. That’s okay, though. Not every issue can be a rollercoaster of emotions and excitement. What I did appreciate about this issue was the development of the story. Things are progressing nicely and I can see this turning out to be a pretty good story in the end. If you are someone who is unfamiliar with the Invaders, doing some prior research might help with the overall understanding of the comic. Especially if things continue to go down the road they are on, it could be very helpful to understand more about the characters. I also believe it would make it more enjoyable to the reader. But as for the comic itself, I thought it was a fairly good read. I didn’t lose interest, but I wasn’t amazingly engaged either. The art is still amazing to me however. I hope the story continues to develop and grow, and hopefully we can see some greatness out of it. – E

GPA by Publisher:

DC Comics: 1 A, 3 B’s and 2 D’s, averaging out to a 2.50

Marvel Comics: 2 A’s, 4 B and 1 C, averaging out to a 3.14

Independents: 1 C earning a 2.00

Funniest Panel of the Week:

Captain Cold in Forever Evil #5 isn't afraid of anybody... in the light
Captain Cold in Forever Evil #5 isn’t afraid of anybody… in the light

Epic Panel of the Week:

Frank Castle is one BAMF in The Punisher #1
Frank Castle is one BAMF in The Punisher #1

Cover Art of the Week:

Ms. Marvel #1 - Art Adams Variant
Ms. Marvel #1 – Art Adams Variant

That about wraps it up for our reviews this week! Look for next week’s previews coming soon. Any comic books you didn’t see reviewed that you want reviewed? Any grades you didn’t agree on? Let us know in the comments!

All images taken from ComiXology app and the credit for them goes to the respective publishers; thanks to IDW Comics, image Comics, Dark Horse, Boom! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment, DC and Marvel for putting out great books.

Written by Sherif ElkhatibAdrian Puryear, Evan Lowe and Robert Michael