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.

Hijabified Cosplay

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.

Yay Diversity!

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!

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11 thoughts on “The Muslim Geek Experience

  1. What is hijab? Is it just a head(plus chest) cover?

    I believe it includes a moral code. Hijab is mainly done to prevent unnecessary attention and to be recognized as muslim.

    I don’t understand the concept- ‘Everything can be done with a hijab’ Hijab ballet dancers/ Broadway dancers etc are beyond my understanding.

    May Allah forgive us and guide us to be within the limits set by Him. Ameen.

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    1. Ameen to your beautiful Dua. I agree with your definition of what a Hijab is and should be. I must say that I don’t necessarily see an issue with cosplaying per se, as long as the rest of the costume is in adherence with the overall general code of dress that a hijabi would adhere too in any other circumstances (not tight, not see-through, etc…). Also, the difference between said cosplaying and ballet dancing is that cosplayers are not generally speaking partaking in activities that would be deemed unacceptable in Islam (dancing, singing, etc…). Of course, I’m not at all an expert in Islamic Jurisprudence so if you are aware of any specific scholarly opinion pertaining to this, please feel free to share them with me. I always welcome the fact that we can share knowledge among ourselves and help each other stay within the bounds of what is acceptable in Islam. Jazak’Allah khair.

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  2. I love this post so much, Geeky! Those costumes… girls got some talent and creativity! I love dressing up. I have an Eowyn-inspired dress that my mom sewed for me for an acapella group I was a part of in high school. It’s purple, of course, but still Eowyn! It counts. Haha! But I don’t get many chances to wear it sadly 😦 I used to draw fan art, then during a period of my life that I wish I could re-do, I deleted them all. I had fan art for LotR of course, Lost, Danny Phantom, and other less geeky shows like SpongeBob. Man. I wish I were geeky enough to be considered a part of the Muslim Geek Experience, but I am comforted to know that y’all exist! You give me hope.

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  3. Is Saladin Ahmed Muslim? I don’t ask to be nitpicky, it’s just I’d assumed the same and picked up Throne of the Crescent Moon which read to me as being an Arab Christian fantasy world rather than a Muslim one (I get that it was a fantasy religion of course but a lot of the markers — calling God the almighty father for one — struck me as making far more sense in a Christian context than an Islamic one). I’d be very interested to know! Love your blog by the way, it’s always nice to see other geeky Muslimahs writing. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Zeineb for checking out my blog. Saladin Ahmed is of Muslim heritage, but I think he considers himself secular mostly. I think for the most part he tries to inject a Muslim or Arab flavour to his work, but he also borrows some elements from elsewhere/other traditions. Here is an interview he did on the subject of Muslim Fantasy and his style of writing and inspiration.

      https://thinkprogress.org/a-conversation-with-novelist-saladin-ahmed-about-muslim-fantasy-transcending-tropes-and-writing-18781dbfb42#.itt2ke9vt

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      1. That explains a lot! I feel less silly for assuming he was Muslim now; after reading Crescent Moon in hope of Muslims in fantasy I was lecturing myself a little bit for making assumptions based off his name. :’)

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      2. I completely understand what you mean. I always make the assumption that an individual with a Muslim (sounding?) name is Muslim, and of course I’ve learned along the way that it’s not always the case. Fun fact: I first met Saladin Ahmed in the comment section of a popular Science Fiction website. This was before he published his novel. Because of his name I just assumed he was Muslim. It was only after he published his book that I discovered his background. My first reaction upon seeing the novel was “OMG isn’t that the guy from the comment section on I09?” Loooool.

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