In the works
Conversations with Mad Clarity (novel) 2012-current -a hundred hues of beautiful (novel) 2013- current ? Off the Beaten Path: 101 Nature Reserves in and around London (guide)
- Living London: Explore 1000+ London stories and places, just click /EXPLORE: http://livinglon.co.uk/
- Neon+ Salt, documentary photography project, South Korea 2015- 16
- Nowhere Journeys Australia, documentary photography project, 2016
- 'Settling In' short documentary film on women in migration, 2014.
- Photography Archives: https://www.flickr.com/photos/sysprints/sets/
- River Wandle: Flowing through Time (Oral History Project Book) 94pg, 2014.
- Sy's Poems, 297pg, paperback, 2013.
- Sy's Poems Book II, 211pg, paperback, 2013.
- Living London photography exhibition (Oct 2015)
- Empathy Museum: A Mile in My Shoes (as part of Totally Thames)
- Maroc 50mm photo-project 2014. Click here
- Sy's Poems Book III, 230pg, paperback 2014.
- Between a Reverie and a Hard Place 57pg, paperback, 2013.
- Time Out 'Your London' Winner 2013.
- This Restless Soul (novel) 2011-2012: 550pg, paperback.
- Stargazing in Lahore (photo-blog project) Jan-April 2012
- Stargazing in Lahore, Brixton Village (photo-exhibit) 2012.
- 'A Boy and his Chicks' exhibited in the Mica Gallery, 2012.
- Short Films (experimental): By Time, Hallucinating in the Bird Gallery, Fly Away Home, Butterflies within Her, A Home away from Home, 2014.
- Encounters Tooting Shop, performance/ Reading, 2012
- Photography featured on The Samosa website 2012
- Poetry and Writing published in Paar-e-Parda magazine 2012-13
- Photography featured in the Guardian, Islington Gazette and Hackney Gazette and Wandsworth Brightside. Video featured on Brent and Kilburn Times and Kilburn Herald 2014.
- Freegan Freedom, novel, (self-published) 2007-8.
- Aeroplane Art Show, Mowlem Street, East London. 2010
- Bridges and Barriers Interfaith Arts Festival, 2010
- W8OOi Creations, Photography Portfolio. 2010.
- Sony Ericsson W800i photo-project, 2007-2011.
- Women and Aesthetics Art Show, Goldsmiths, 2010.
- Women and Aesthetics, What We did at Goldsmiths, (pub.) 2010.
- Reprezent Radio Interview, South London, 2010
- Peacekeeping and Tools for Change, IofC, Caux, Switzerland. 2009
- The Adventures of Lady Burkazza (zine & short story) 2010.
- Earth People Newsletter, Goldsmiths, 2010-11
- Comments on environmental conservation/ hiking featured in the Croydon Gazette, Downland Thymes, Chalk Talk and the Newstatesman
- Skilled in pottery/ ceramics, soap making, painting and drawing and stained glass
- Soundcloud: audio poems
- Study on post 9-11 pop-cult Representations of Islam
- British Sign Language: fluent, level 2 (CACDP2)
|London Wetland Centre|
After many years of exploring new places, making new friends, taking photographs & collecting stories, I've finally collated my material and am incredibly happy to launch Living London, the online version of my alternative London travelogue. This project has been massively challenging and has taken me more than a few years to put together; from going through masses of pictures and picking out the best ones, to finding the right words to go with them, it hasn't been easy. That being said, this has been one of the most enjoyable, and rewarding projects I've ever undertaken. Find out more about the website and project below.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
― Marcel Proust
Over the last few years I’ve stumbled upon a myriad of awe inspiring places across London- within these places I’ve often met extraordinary people with stories both unique and inspiring. I set up the Living London website to share the everyday explorations, experiences, encounters and imaginings that make up my London, the city I love and I live. I hope this project will inspire you get out and to explore, to make London your own, to look, to look again, and to love and appreciate this one of a kind city.
How to use the site
Living London is made up of an ever growing collection of London places, photographs, stories, descriptions and more. It’s designed to inform and to inspire. The best way to use this website is to click EXPLORE—— see where you end up.
Follow Living London on social media:
Neon + Salt
Photo blog project, capturing everyday life in Busan (mostly)
Nowhere journeys- Australia
Between a Reverie and a Hard Place
...a collection of quirky and poignant short stories told by a number of interesting, if not slight deranged, city dwellers.
'So there I was swaying from side to side in a sea of people; faceless, nameless people and then someone must have pushed me. I'm not talking a gentle push, I'm talking one great big violent mammoth push. Actually it must have been a whole crowd of people. Anyway I felt something go through me. I didn't feel it, because somehow I stopped feeling a long time ago, remember that depersonalisation stuff I was telling you about? I didn't feel it, but I sensed it. Something was wrong, and then I looked down. I looked down in horror (I think it was horror) at the metal hook protruding from my stomach...'
'As he got to the seafront, Tyrone bought some chips and a coke from a hut not too far from the pier. He then settled himself on a bench not far from the waters edge. It wasn't long before the seagulls came for him. 'Allow it blad!' he shouted at a big one as it grabbed a chip from his polestyrene tray. 'I'll mess you up!' The seagull didn't seem the slightest bit put off and a few of the people walking by looked at him oddly. 'What!' he jested rudely, jerking his head up as if to challenge them, embarrassed they quickly turned around and continued walking.'
River Wandle: Flowing Through Time
I really enjoyed putting together this oral history book for Groundwork London and the Living Wandle Partnership. It was a lot of work, but def worth it! Info below-
Sy's Poems (Book III)
A collection of trippy and ethereal poems; mostly relaying stories of people and place in the UK.
Settling In: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIdOXpmjyBA
A Home away from Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxR7bvWCF2E
Hallucinating in the Bird Gallery: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhL96XH_9lg
It's Raining at Cheesemans: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgT8BRF2TbI
Fly Away Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzCxDvlF1sg
Stargazing in Lahore: An Overview
A day before I flew out to Lahore I went to Argos and bought three large boxes of duracell batteries for my cheap second-hand Olympus camera. Although I didn't quite have a plan for what I would being doing in Pakistan for the next three months, I did know that I would be taking a lot of pictures. I have always been interested in photography and the powerful role images can play in challenging views, changing perceptions and facilitating change. Over the last few years I have worked on various writing, art and photography projects all of which have sought to override shallow and reductive representations of certain nations and peoples and go deeper in conveying a sense of shared humanity through emphasizing our similarities over our differences.
|Guarding the Fort, 2012.|
Pakistan is currently ranked the fourth most dangerous country in the world - plagued with calamities such as political instability, frequent natural disasters and terrorism. When I first arrived in Lahore I half expected to be met by angry mobs, explosions and hordes of dengue mosquitoes on the prowl. The reality of life (in Lahore at least) was not so dramatic- or menacing! And although my first few weeks had been pretty hard living especially with the constant cuts in power, gas and water, it wasn't half as difficult as I’d imagined it would be. During my three months of working and living in Lahore I discovered a new Pakistan, one which often remains hidden from the public eye. It is a beautiful Pakistan filled with colour, magic and intrigue. Despite all its problems, to me, Pakistan remains one of the most interesting places in the world and I found the people living there to be incredibly resourceful, sincere, generous and spirited. This is what I wanted to capture through my photography. I wanted to take pictures that depicted the true reality of everyday life in the city. I wanted to capture images that told stories and really conveyed the essence of the people I came across.
What really struck me was the resourcefulness of the people of Lahore, very rarely did I come across someone begging, rather one would always have a service on offer- one man would be selling balloons, another mending pots on the side road, a few children would gather shoes to shine. The people made the best of what they were given- they worked hard to receive the little they got.
|Weigh Yourself, 2012.|
|Balloons and Crisps, 2012.|
I also wanted to capture the colour and the mysticism of Lahore, for all the stereotypes perpetuated of Pakistan as a dark, dangerous and violent country, I found the city to be a very colourful place from soft pastels to garish neons, colour was to be found everywhere, on buses, trucks, markets, peoples clothes, decorations, even the graves, this to me reflected the qualities I found in many of the Lahori people I came to meet. A side that presented a certain creativity, humour, playfulness-all very human qualities.
|Jallo Moor, 2012.|
|Techni-Colour Truck, 2012|
|Wazir Khan Masjid, 2012.|
I also wanted to focus on taking pictures of children. I really believe that wherever you go in the world, the children are the same. They love to play and laugh and to cause mischief. I think children are symbolic of truth and purity given the free-spirited nature they possess. Children remind us of how we used to be, back before we became aware of our differences, before we formed ideas and identities rooted in own insecurities and fears. They remind us of simpler times, and I believe if we let them, they can inspire us to recreate those simpler times- that sense of freedom and exploration.
|Girls in Bright Colours, 2012.|
|On the Banks of the Ravi, 2012.|
I plan on going back to Lahore in a few years and setting up a tuition and playcenter for street kids, before that however I'll need to gain more experience and raise some funds! I'm really looking forward to working very hard and seeing my project through in the not so distant future!
Audio Poems: https://soundcloud.com/sysprints
...my first book of poems documenting my own journey as well the journeys of a number of strange and interesting characters living in the city of London...
(The Story Behind) Settling In
Bostall Gardens. It took me over an hour and a half to get there- 40 minutes on the tube, 30 minutes on the train and another 15 on a bus. To be honest even when I got there, I had no idea where there was. Or what to expect. My work takes me to some pretty obscure and out of the way places and often it's in these places that I get to meet the most extraordinary people and hear some of the most inspirational stories.
A few days prior to my expedition, I'd received an email asking if I could go along to take a few photographs and to cover a story. The Mayor of Greenwich Cllr Angela Cornforth was paying a visit to the gardens to show her support for the thriving community gardening project and meet some of the people involved, many of whom were part of a Nepalese group.
When I got to Bostall Gardens, a sleepy and rather unassuming little park in Abbey Wood, I tried to call my colleague to find out where the group was, but alas she wasn't picking up, and so I paced up the main pathway all the while silently praying I was in the right place. As I paced I noticed a figure in the distance, an old women pushing a wheelbarrow. I decided my best bet would be to follow her and so I did. I followed her to the back of the park, through a gated area and straight into a secret garden. I was in awe at what I found. In a green space in a relatively unknown suburban area of south east London, on a sunny day I was met with a group of women dressed in ten thousand colours, with beautiful weathered faces, digging and planting and laughing together. In the background was a glorious, almost otherworldly polytunnel. I felt at that moment as though I'd stepped into a different country.
I spotted a few colleagues as I entered, and walked over to them and after a few quick introductions, I began, eagerly, to explore the space. I began trying to gather enough information for the story. However, more than finding out about the project, I was (from the very beginning) interested in finding about the women. And so I floated, smiling, slightly unsure of myself, DSLR in hand and as I floated, I overheard a few words that I recognised. To my surprise and delight I very quickly came to realise that a lot of the Nepalese women spoke Hindi. I could communicate with them! I was overjoyed. As a photographer (and as a photographer on duty) I was happy that I could direct photographs of these stunning women who had recently migrated to the UK.
More than that I was happy that I could speak to them, ask them questions, find out their stories. I was happy that they could speak to me and ask me questions and find out my stories. And we did talk, we talked about home, we talked about life, we talked about gardening and South Asia. To me, by the end of that visit, the story was a lot less about the Mayor's visit and more about the women, their journey's, their spirits and their life stories and how they came to be part of this very special gardening group.
Of all the women, there were two that I really connected with, Toku Maya Gurun and Hira, our friendship grew over the months as the project developed.
I remember the first time I met Toku, she wearing a baseball cap with a weed leaf sewn on, she had a strong face, charisma and brilliant sense of humour. I was drawn to her. And so were all her friends. She called me bhaji (sister) and told me of how gardening was a nice way to pass time, and how she was living alone in England, and that Bostall Gardens reminded her of home, it gave her the chance to spend time with her friends. I was inspired by her. I wanted to learn more. And I was very inspired by Hira too- by her humility and sweet nature. When I was filming in the garden she said to me in the most endearing manner, 'I am old woman.' I'll never forget that. And I'll never forget our first conversation, it ended with her telling me to stay away from 'baadmashes' (gangsters) who take drugs. I felt privileged to be able to communicate with them. As a Londoner whose parents are originally from South Asia, and belonging to two different worlds, I felt like I could almost bridge that gap. I felt like I understood these women, more than that, I felt like they understood me- the dualism of my life, my heart, my soul and my home.
By the end of the day I left Bostall Gardens feeling very blessed and happy to have met the women and to have stumbled across their secret world. I felt like I still had so much more to learn and they had so much more to teach me (personally). When I returned to the office with my photos, I wrote (an almost dry story) about the Mayor visit adding a few quotes from Hira and Toku that I had translated into English. I then put the photo's on Groundwork London's Facebook page, and emailed them around to my friends before publishing on my personal blog. A lot of friends, upon seeing them, asked me if I had been abroad. They asked me who the incredible looking women were and when I told them I met them in south London they were more than a little surprised.
This is when I decided to pitch a very vague idea for a film which would seek to get a little deeper in sharing their stories. It was during this time I was approached by my colleague Clare, she told me of how she was creating an women in migration oral history project with another colleague Nicky and asked if I wanted to make a film that could document this project. Of course I said yes and after a few sessions of brain storming, we decided that we had a clear(ish) idea of what we wanted the film to be about and who we wanted to involve. We wanted it to be about song and craft as a means of connecting to each other. Further, as this was part of a wider project to integrate third country nations, it was open to people from other nationalities. And so over the next few months I met and connected with more incredible women, from Brazil to Morrocco.
Over the next two months, Clare, Nicky and I spent time conducting interviews with women of Bostall Gardens on song and craft. I filmed all these interviews. We then spent a subsequent three weeks at Woolwich Community Centre, where I filmed workshops on singing and craft. The craft sessions were run by Women of Cloth member Carol Grantham and the singing workshops, by Osnat Schmool of Filament Theatre. This project, the Women in Migration project was part of a wider project entitled Cultivating Communities which sought to facilitate the integration of third country nationals. Though to me personally, the project was about the integration of UK nationals to people from other countries. Because integration isn't a one way stream, it works and only works both ways, and to be able to integrate, to connect with others, is a gift and a blessing and something we should cherish. It is only through understanding others that we may come to better understand ourselves. This was true, at least for me.
The women involved in this project are all so strong and interesting and have so much to offer- and through song and craft they have shared some of their beautiful stories with us. Filming was the easy part, what was really difficult was making a short 7 minutes film from more than 8 hours of footage, and to do this all within a week- the gap between the final session and film screening at Woolwich Community Centre. My friend Raquhel helped me a lot on in process in putting it all together, we stayed up till 2am everyday for 7 days to get it done, and despite all the technical hiccups and challenges, we were pleased to get it up for the deadline!
At the end of it, it was incredible and humbling to see Woolwich Community Centre packed out, and to see many of those which were involved! I was really happy that the film was well received. I learned a lot from these women, migrants have a so much to offer- as well as sharing with us a whole new way of seeing, they share with us their culture, soul and spirit. This small and humble project shows how a group of dissimilar women came together through song and craft.
Women and Aesthetics Art Show
Photos Courtesy of Anna
Radio Interview at South London based radio station Reprezent
Aeroplane Art Show
47 Mowlem Street, E2, 07/10/10, 6-9pm
Aeroplane explores from different viewpoints ideas around physical beauty. It looks at our judgements on the female aesthetic, related themes of entrapment, personal freedoms and faith.
Filmed by Bruno
Photos courtesy of Noreen
Transition Town Tooting Shop: Short Film
Interfaith Arts Festival
Three Faiths Forum
This is copy is a little out of date, InshAllah i'll soon put up the updated version of the book.
Buy a copy here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/freegan-freedom/4993705
A Few Words On Writing
'To withdraw myself from myself has ever been my sole, my entire, my sincere motive in scribbling at all.' -Lord Byron.
Writing has always been a big part of my life, it has kept me grounded. Its brought me closer to God and myself. To knowing myself. My book has also been a great inspiration to me; it kept me going, it gave me hope when I was close to giving up, it took me places that I could never dream of. It also gave me some laughs. Reminded me of how epic life is, how truly amazing. Each character came into being on its own, their personalities shaped by those of the flitters who create and live in thier own fantastical worlds, who have so much to offer us if only we'd listen to them. Freegan Freedom represents the possibilities of what community life could be like.
Freegan Freedom Novel
Freegan Freedom explores the relationships between a group of dissimilar Londoners living in an abandoned building brought together by fate and connected through shared anti-materialistic and communitarian ethos.
Freegan Freedom explores the relationships between a group of dissimilar Londoners living in an abandoned building brought together by fate and connected through shared anti-materialistic and communitarian ethos.
At the age of fifteen, Sebastian finds living on the streets of a dark and surreal London. One unlikely day he meets a quirky beatnik who leads him through a labyrinth into his inimitable world, a world in which ten dissimilar freegans are living together in an abandoned building. Sebastian soon adopts their freegan traits and finds a place within the strange family unit. Three years later his feelings of dissatisfaction resurface. He struggles to deal with his own lack of direction, feelings of alienation and childhood deprivation as he goes on an unforgettably journey of self discovery. A journey which begins when he finds a friend in an unlikely companion; an offbeat Muslim girl who challenges stereotypes in many shapes and forms... (Download a pdf of my book or read online) Copyright Saira Niazi 2007
Buy a copy here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/freegan-freedom/4993705
Earth People Publication
In 209-10, I started up an independent Islamic themed newsletter at Goldsmiths entitled Earth People. 'The "Earth People" newsletter is a islamically themed newsletter based at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in association with the GoldISOC [Goldsmiths Islamic Society]. Our slogan is, "Integration through Education," the newsletter being a platform for discussion on demystifying the issues that concern Islam today.'
Featured on the Goldsmiths Student Union Website
Here is one the first articles I wrote for it. (Updated version of the article written for Faith Matters in response to Camerons attack on Multiculturalism can be found on FM's official blog)
Are people of different cultural and religious backgrounds learning to live together in harmony?
All my life I have lived in Tooting, one of the most culturally diverse areas in London. Walking down the high street on a busy Saturday afternoon I pass an array of vastly different shops, ranging from Afro-Caribbean food joints, specialist Indian and Pakistani grocery shops to Polish general stores. Tooting is home to a number of religious institutes, mosques and churches, a Temple, we’ve even got a rather large Sikh Gurdwara; evidently we are a community grounded by faith. Every morning on my way to the high street I pass the two trolley homes. Transparent plastic sheets and cardboard boxes were placed shoddily over a disused Sainsbury’s trolley to form a makeshift dwelling and bizarre refuge for the occupants within. Stuck on the wall behind these homes were newspaper cut-outs and colourful hand-made posters with a wide array of different massages on peace and harmony, there were also a few religious notes including; Jesus loves you, Eid Mubarak and Merry Christmas. Inside lives a West Indian woman and her younger daughter. They are out local social recluses who have nothing but misunderstood advice to offer humanity. I was once lucky enough to speak to the older woman, she told me she had an epiphany from God 2am down at the Broadway, she had been asked to set up a stable by the edge of a dusty road, to give up her material life and devote her time to bringing everyone together in this individualist society; to spread the calm. Tooting has its fair share of what can only be described as slightly off-their-head eccentrics each drifting through the town, day in day out. It has its own unique set of characters, the blond dread-locked man who never seems to budge from his spot on the bus bench, the rambling old alcoholic, and the quiet hobbling giant. I live in incredibly vibrant town, a town in which I feel its locals are integrated. Never have I waited at the bus stop and not had someone strike up a conversation with me, the eastern European guy new to town, known locals, the old people who always have something to say about the weather.
In recent years however, I have seen my community change drastically, tensions have risen and given way to racial acts of violence fuelling mutual distrust amongst all parties. A few weeks ago an old Muslim man was attacked by a group of local youths, his subsequent death has been the cause of much distress and has led local Imams to plea with Muslims against revenge attacks. Since 9/11 there have been evident changes in community life, from an increase in police to unrelenting whispers surrounding phoney arrests. In these troubling times, many are asking the question, is integration possible?
I’m a Pakistani Muslim, a year ago I started wearing the headscarf and I feel that it hasn’t much changed things for me. I still meet new people and make the most of all the opportunities that come my way. Fellow classmates and colleagues have been from all walks of life, coming from countries such as Vietnam, Bosnia, Columbia, Korea, the list is endless. They all have had something in common; they each take pride in their heritage and accept people from others. We get along very well as we’re always learning about each other’s cultures and past lives, hence integration happens. Within these small classes, and work places over time we bond and learn to get along in harmony. I think one of the problems is that people have trouble breaking out of their cultural sect into the wider world, perhaps they don’t integrate as they feel that they won’t be able to relate to one another.
What would a Muslim youth have in common with a Korean lady, you’d be surprised. Sometimes you’ll find you can relate to the most unlikely of people, maybe it’s something else, maybe people fear rejection or they stick to their own as they share the same beliefs and ideals as each other. I’ve been volunteering at a refugee centre for long time now, and I find that people from the same countries stick together. This could be down to similar negative experiences and vitally their high level of understanding of one another. Segregation in different areas around London is evident, go down to Peckham on a weekday night and you’ll see gangs of black people dominating the streets, or go to Southall and most of the population will be Asian. Read the newspapers and you’ll undoubtedly come across something very right wing and racist, something along the lines of ‘these bloody eastern Europeans are taking over the country’ or some more negative propaganda on Islam, something really scathing. The British National Party is said to be getting stronger, the number of people in support of them is on the rise, perhaps due to fear evoked through newspaper articles like these. Although there is segregation I would like to believe it is getting better, after all we’re all human. We all share the basics, flesh, blood, a unique mind. I think the only thing that is missing is empathy. If people are to live together in harmony they’ll need to understand one another.
Since coming to Goldsmiths over a year ago, I have found myself spending most of my time with other Muslims. Why? Perhaps because we are all treading the same path, we’re all searching for the same thing. Islam is a religion that transcends the boundaries of race, and age, gender and ethnicity. Muslims are all connected in a deep way, they live their lives based on the universal Islamic principles. Those following the real Islam are never separated, or divided, they hold no feelings of enmity in their hearts. You can see it when they pass each other on the streets with smiles on their faces, when they offer greetings of peace. I think the solution is to extend this good will to everyone, it should be adopted by both Muslims and non Muslims, then and only then will integration be possible and desirable. We will all need to reach out to one another, to not be afraid of not receiving in return. We need to let go of all this distrust and anger and fear and unite. After all we are all children of the earth.
Post Production: Shackle Free
Life is tough for Johnny Littlewood, every week he puts his new and more creative escape plan to the test and every week he fails. His only goal in life is to get out of the morbid hospital he feels he has mistakenly been admitted in. He has learnt to deal with the vastly different people around him and although a lot of them have over time become his friends he is still keen as ever to break out. As the episode unfurl the surrounding characters' stories and pasts becomes known. Johhny however, is still very much a mystery. What is his story? Does he really belong there? Will he ever escape?
Has Post-9/11 popular culture changed the way in which ‘we’ judge Muslims and the Islamic faith in the West? Discuss in relation to Said’s Orientalism.
By Saira Niazi
Since 9-11, popular culture representations of Muslims have increased significantly in terms of sheer volume and diversity. Muslim representations can be found in all mediums of popular culture, from low-budget indie films and cinema blockbusters to graphic video games, zany art installations and popular literature. The Iranian revolution, attacks on embassies, hijackings, hostage takings and acts of violence committed by various guerrilla groups and mullah-led sets have signalled a militant Islam on collision course with the West. Islam has also been an important element in nationalist struggles and resistance movements in the Muslim Republics of the former Soviet Union, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Thailand, China and the Philippines. Against this eclectic international backdrop of social, cultural and political change together with the rapid spreading of revivalism, Islam has gained a renewed political importance. This has been reflected in media and popular culture, in which exposure to Muslims and Islam has become more visible, pronounced and localised. In this study I will be arguing that post- 9/11 popular culture representations of Muslims occur in a specific geo-political context, reflect certain power structures and serve inherently political purposes.
During the last decade popular culture representations of Muslims have been largly negative and have further demonized the already marginalized Muslim community in Britain. According to Foucault ‘power and knowledge directly imply one another, that there is no power relation without correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.’ (1979:27) The exercise of power over subordinates cannot therefore be reduced simply to a question of attitudes and motives on the part of individuals, since power is rooted in the very language and institutions by which we describe, understand and control the world. Foucault’s analysis of power and knowledge provides the basis for Saids Orientalism. An integral part of which alludes to the relationship of power between the Occident and the Orient, in which the balance is weighted heavily in favour of the former. Said asserts that ‘Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient’s difference with its weakness… as a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will-to-truth, and knowledge’ The main concepts in Said’s Orientalism points to the problematic nature between representation and the collusion of knowledge and power, the use of binary opposition and the creation and propagation of the Other. The evolution of technology in the post-modern world has made for greater reinforcement of the stereotypes by which the Orient is viewed; TV, films and other media resources have forced information into more and more standardized models strengthening the hold of historical, academic and imaginative demonology of the Orient. Today, representations of Islam and the Muslim Other, take many different shapes and forms; they are more complex, variant and diffused than ever before.
The attacks of 9-11 and the consequent War on Terror greatly impacted popular Western perceptions of Muslims and Islam. The spectacle of violence and symbolism of the collapsing of the twin towers televised throughout the globe effectively intensified historical stereotypes of the violent Other. A new set of terms evolved in order to hierarchize, categorize and control Muslims such nclude ‘terrorist’ ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘holy jihad’. The context in which stereotypical images of Muslims are viewed- against a myriad of real-life images and reports of terror attacks, videotaped beheadings, floggings, violent protest and the killing of British and American soldiers, journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan- has changed drastically. This hyppereality is expressed by Baudrillard who states that ‘reality and fiction are inextricable’ and further poses the question ‘How do things stand with the real event, then, if reality is everywhere infiltrated by images, virtuality and fiction?’ Today, the stereotypes power to inflict damage on innocents’ is much greater than before 9-11. During times of armed conflict, stereotypes meet the least resistance; deceptive images are most convincingly portrayed, defended and justified as truth. Much post 9/11 popular culture has perpetuated notions of the aggressive Muslim through the sustained demonization of Islam, Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (saw). Muslim culture is depicted as unchanging and monolithic whereas Muslims are portrayed as backwards, irrational, and aggressive fanatics; their religion is seen to be wholly incompatible with the ways of the West. Many post 9-11 films, including The Kingdom, Black Hawk Down, Four Feathers and Hidalgo have effectively propagated images of the violent barbaric Muslim Other. Further, such current depictions of the Muslim villain carry a high level of believability in cultural entertainment portraying the struggles between good against bad owing to the historical continuity of negative representations of Muslims dating back the Middle Ages.
In the first chapter of this study I will be looking at medieval representations of Islam and the Saracens drawing upon the similarities and differences of pre and post-modern representations and the effects these have had on both ‘Self’ and ‘Other.’ The second chapter will focus on post 9-11 popular culture representations of Muslims and Islam in American and British drawing heavily upon TV and Film. I will assess the different forms depictions assume and the correlation between politics and representation in the two separate nations. The third and final chapter will survey the effects of sustained demonology in representation; followed by a conclusion and summary of my argument. In terms of methodology, this study will be a critical analysis which draws upon different theories and research in the fields of mass communication theory and post-colonial theory. Download a copy of the full study below, copyright S.N 2011
To whom does Fundamentalism appeal to?
The Oxford English dictionary defines fundamentalism as a belief in the original or most basic principles of a creed, often associated with fierce commitment and sometimes reflected in fanatic zeal.1 Fundamentalists have often been referred to as literalists who wish to return to or replicate the past. In the strictest terms, a practising Muslim who believes the Quran is the word of God and follows the teachings and practises of the prophet could be regarded as a fundamentalist. Alternatively, the term fundamentalism has evolved to indicate a passionate and confrontational faith in religious beliefs as the superseding principles in social life and politics. Fundamentalism’ is plagued with negative connotations such as terrorism, extremism and fanaticism. It evokes aggressive images of intolerance such as a keyed-up suicide bombers and mobs of bearded men shouting angry slogans like ‘Death to the West.’
The Iranian revolution, attacks on embassies, hijackings, hostage takings and acts of violence committed by various guerrilla groups and mullah-led sets have signalled a militant Islam on collision course with the West. Islam has also been an important element in nationalist struggles and resistance movements in the Muslim Republics of the former Soviet Union, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Thailand, China and the Philippines. The contemporary revival of Islam and the fundamentalist movements emerging from all corners of the world have often been regarded as a major threat to the West and its interests. In reality two of the largest fundamentalist movements; Ikhwan al Muslimoon and the Islamic Party (of Pakistan) are acknowledged constitutionalists who have, for the past 50 or so years, made it their goal to establish Islam through peaceful means. Furthermore, when free from government repression many Islamic candidates and parties have worked within the political realm. Such organizations have been co-operative and professional. A minority of militant Islamic groups whom resort to violence will continue to exist. However, by picking out a number of these resentful groups in the disparate Muslim world and labelling them fundamentalist is not only counter-productive but may also be dangerous.
Wherever a Muslim group is fighting for its survival or its basic human rights, whether in Algeria, Palestine or Mindanao, they are deemed Islamic fundamentalists. The West continues to remain passive as acts of extreme injustice occur through much of the Muslim world from the mass murder of thousands of native Bosnian Muslims at the hands of the Serbs, the continuing attacks launched on Palestine from bordering Israel and the Muslim genocide in Kashmir at the hands of the Indian army. Although fundamentalism appeals to a vast number of people from the highly educated to the illiterate, rich and poor, there are a number of recurrent trends as to where movements emerge and who joins the resistance.
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"Intrinsic to the perpetuation of this evil is the shamelessness of photographing it." Sontag, ibid, p.91. Discuss this quotation in relation to any photographs of your choice. Abu Ghraib Photographs Sontag
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