Changing Perceptions: Muslim Women Breaking Stereotypes in Russia

For ages, Islam has been associated with terrorism in Russia. Muslim women are known as black widows, because of the suicide bombers that wanted to avenge the death of their fathers, brothers or husbands. The media has been enforcing these stereotypes.

Now, 16% of the Moscow population is estimated to be Muslim. The New York Times has met several women who share the same goal: Change the vision of Islam in Russia. They may share the same goal but their ways of achieving it is different: ranging from being an fashion designer to music composer.

“People always need an enemy. It used to be the Muslim community, now the situation in Ukraine has created a new enemy and I’ve noticed that Muslims have moved out of the spotlight,” says Rezeda Suleyman, a 23-year-old fashion designer.

But this shift has given Muslims in Russia new possibilities. Because Muslims are no longer seen as “the enemy”. They want to redefine their image and establish new and better relations with society.

She has been promoting Muslim lifestyle in Russia for three years. In order to do so, they organize a charity event. They invite celebrities to their events because they are seen as role models for the younger audience. “Celebrities help us to break stereotype and create a positive image of Muslim women.”Other women like her saw a new window of opportunity to change perceptions.

Zulfiya Raupova, a music composer, tries to change the vision of islam through her music. “I feel a huge responsibility to break stereotypes about Muslims with my music and attitude,” she says.

Despite efforts to redefine the role of Islam, some Muslims admit integrating into the mainstream still creates many challenges.

You can follow the journey of those women in this documentary, that shows Muslim activists like Ms. Suleyman and Ms. Ichaeva, as they try to improve the public perception of Islam and raise the the social status of other Muslim women.

Written by Assia Loutfi

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Assia is a 21-year- old digital media student. She has a big passion for the Japanese culture and loves tea. In her spare time she likes to read books and watch television series.