SHAFAQNA – Vogue is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year with a dazzling feature on the diverse lives and stories of American women around the country. Among the subjects featured is a community of Muslim women in Maryland, whose stories serve to remind viewers of the faith community’s crucial place in the American fabric.
The anniversary special, entitled “American Women,” encompasses 15 portfolios of video and portraiture shot by an array of photographers. Photojournalist Lynsey Addarrio shot the feature on “Islam in America,” which zoomed in on four Muslim women living in Maryland.
Addarrio has been photographing Muslim men and women for over a decade, often shooting in regions of the world that have been ravaged by war and strife. But with Islamophobia on the rise, the photographer said it’s a critical time to be doing this work in the U.S.
“Since President Trump took office, he has issued executive orders directly and unjustly targeting Muslims,” Addario told The Huffington Post. “In my opinion, it’s important for mainstream media to show that Muslims are Americans-and many Americans are Muslims, and I hope stories like this can dispel misconceptions.”
Among the women Addario featured is Zainab Chaudhary, the Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a major Muslim advocacy group. In her work and personal life, Chaudry also often finds herself fighting back against stereotypes about Islam and Muslim women.
“We’re not a monolith,” Chaudry said in the feature. “There’s this idea that we’re all cookie-cutter versions of one another. The fact is, we come from very diverse backgrounds. We all have unique experiences that define who we are.”
That message of diversity is very much part of the ethos of “American Women,” which showcases communities ranging from Standing Rock protestors to salmon fisherwomen in Alaska to Air Force service members in Honolulu.
The special wasn’t “intended as a response to the presidency of Donald Trump or to the women’s movement that has gained force in its wake,” wrote Vogue creator director Sally Singer. “And yet, so much has changed since we began initial photography, and so quickly.”
The camps at Standing Rock have been razed. Families fear deportation of their friends and loved ones. Notions of race and educational opportunity are debated on Twitter. Sexuality, religion, ecology, nationality…everything seems in transition or under attack depending on where you stand on the political spectrum. Some of these women must feel safer since the election, and for others it’s quite the opposite. No doubt if these images could speak we would hear many points of view.
Life for many Muslim Americans has also changed in recent months. Addario shot the photographs in January ― prior to the inauguration and before President Donald Trumpsigned an executive order that banned visas for individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries. “There’s a sense, looking at these images, of the calm before the storm,” Vogue’s Julia Felsenthal wrote in the feature.
Trump’s order left many Muslims, especially those with family from the seven countries, feeling alienated and unfairly targeted. In the weeks since, mosques have been burned, Islamophobic fliers have cropped up at universities, and even Muslims who aren’t from the seven banned countries have been barred entry to the U.S.
These incidents reflect the very kind of othering that Addario’s feature aims to combat.
“Ultimately, we are all very similar, regardless of our religions,” Addario said. “Most women want to be happy, successful, and if they choose to have families, want the best for their children.”