Contrary to popular belief, Muslim folks come in many shapes and forms with a variety of interests and passions. In this wonderful blend of tastes, proclivities, and obsessions, you will no doubt find the Muslim geek reveling in its own little cocoon of awesomeness. In fact, I think it is safe to say that over the years a rather interesting subculture has emerged: the science fiction and fantasy Muslim fandom. While in essence similar to the broader fandom, it is also very true that certain challenges are unique to what I affectionately call “The Muslim Geek Experience.” Geeking out while remaining authentically Muslim is what it’s all about.
Anyone who’s ever been to Comic-Con—or any of the multitudes of other conventions—knows that cosplaying is half the fun. For all hijabis out there though, finding a hijab-friendly costume is THE CHALLENGE of a lifetime. The truth is much of the source material that makes up the bedrock of Geek culture is neither written/created by Muslims, nor stars any hijabis (other than Dust from the X-Men and few lesser known characters).
For hijabis finding ways of “hijabifying” their favourite costumes is part and parcel of the Muslim Geek Experience. Whether resorting to gender bending (female Captain America, Female Joker), finding ways of incorporating their hijab into the costume, or creating new and original ones, creativity and authenticity are the very essence of hijabified cosplay.
Fan Fiction and Fan Art…..with a twist.
The advent of the Internet has allowed fan fiction and fan art to explode and become an intricate aspect of Geek culture. Fan fiction refers to works of fiction (science fiction, romance, horror, alternate universe, etc…) created by fans and that are based on existing materials from tv shows, comics, novels, and movies. Fan art are artworks done by fans who base their illustrations on the same type of material as fan fiction. These artistic expressions allow fans to engage with their favourite stories by deviating them from what is considered canon and personalizing them instead.
Of course Muslim geeks are also part of the fray when it comes to the delights of Fan fiction and Fan art. Whether it is about a young superman raised as a Muslim, or a Muslim girl accidentally finding herself transported into Naruto’s world, these stories allow Muslim fans to interact with their favourite characters in a meaningful way by incorporating their identity and experiences to the story. Fan art pertaining to the Manga genre is particularly popular among young Muslim artists who add their own twist to it.
One of the greatest aspects of Geek culture is its inclusivity. No, I’m not pretending it is all rainbows and puppies (well maybe sad ones). However, it is undeniable that in general the culture puts the emphasis on inclusivity: all are welcome could be its motto. While we still have a long way to go, while we still witness ugly bouts of bigotry and general nastiness, none are more aware or dedicated to fighting the worst instincts of human nature than those who aspire to a better, enlightened, compassionate, and inclusive world….so Star Trek in a nutshell 🙂
As more and more Muslims proudly display their geeky ways and partake fully in the culture, more Muslim writers and illustrators are starting to make a name for themselves in the genre. Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson are probably the two most recognizable names in that category. Both write stories with Muslim characters and pull much of their inspiration from their Islamic heritage. There is not nearly enough such stories in my humble opinion. However, as Muslim geeks become more and more visible in the culture, it is inevitable that more original material reflecting their identity and experiences will eventually emerge.
So, what is the Muslim geek experience all about you ask? Well we geek out, we fangirl, we obsess about the smallest details, and lose our marbles when our favourite shows bite the dust (cancelling The Sarah Connor Chronicles was an insult on all that is good and decent in this world), all while remaining true to ourselves as Muslim individuals.
SEE YOU AROUND FELLOW GEEKS!