back to top

These Stunning Portraits Show There's No One Kind Of Muslim Woman

"I'm seeing how Muslim women fight oppression just by being badass women."

Posted on

She's the creactor of The Sisters Project, a series of portraits of her fellow Muslim women that show the diversity of a group of people so often subject to stereotypes.

Alia Youssef

It started last semester in a women in Islam course at Ryerson University, where Youssef is about to graduate with a photography degree. A guest speaker had said, "The media tends to paint all Muslim women with one brushstroke," and it stuck with her.

"That quote really hit home for me," she told BuzzFeed Canada.

"I wanted to to a project that humanized Muslim women."

Advertisement

She's now taken 25 portraits of Muslim women, making sure to hear their stories and photograph them in a meaningful place.

Alia Youssef

The woman above is Abeer, a community-based victim support worker and mom to three grown kids.

"Abeer loves travelling and reading, especially if it’s in a quiet place like a garden or a beach. When I met Abeer for the first time, she handed me a Hershey’s kisses chocolate and gave me the biggest smile," reads a description with the photo on the project's Instagram page.

And this is science student Mehnaz.

Alia Youssef

"In most environments I find myself in (UofT, a lab, airplanes, other countries) I believe that I am perceived as a minority. Sometimes I think people see me as a token... a representation of the ‘Muslim woman,’ almost like a prototype for how most Muslim women act, what they do, and what they aspire to be," she told Youssef.

"It's common with Islamophobia — or any type of hatred or oppression — that we tend to take a whole group of people and see them as the same person," said Youssef.

Advertisement

"Muslim women in particular have so much determination to excel," said Youssef. "You would think this group of people, because they’re so oppressed right now, would quiet down, but its just the opposite."

Although the project started as a thesis, Youssef plans to keep it going for as long as she can. She said that especially after Donald Trump's election win, a project like this is needed.

Alia Youssef

"The politics right now is so encouraging for people to show their hate in such public ways," she said.

Just recently, there was an anti-Islam demonstration outside a downtown Toronto mosque, just minutes from Youssef's university campus.

"I don’t know if I could have more a more relevant project, actually," she said.

Alia Youssef

"It reminds you that Muslim women are exactly like other women, and we all have our individual faiths and practices and decisions that are individual to us," said Youssef. "The only thing that makes us different is the god we pray to."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.