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Reclaiming Muslim: The Photo Project Changing the Narrative

Following our discovery of the glorious Muslim Sisterhood, the portrait series that smashes reductive depictions of young British Muslim women, we’ve been on the hunt for projects that share a similar spirit.

Yesterday, VICE ran a piece about Reclaiming Muslim, a photo + interview series documenting Muslim lives across the UK and beyond.

The project’s main aim is to show the diversity of Islam; that Muslims don’t have to look a certain way or subscribe to specific opinions or habits.

Charlotte Bibby, who created Reclaiming Muslim, told VICE: ‘I wanted to start a project that offered a platform to challenge the stereotypes that unfortunately a lot of non-Muslims believe.’

As one girl featured in the series said: ‘I’d love for people not to see me as someone to hate, but someone to have a conversation with.’

Check out some of the words and images from the Reclaiming Muslim Instagram below:

“I became interested in photography when I was a kid. My dad had a few cameras, my aunt had a polaroid, my mum had a polaroid. I was always interested. My mum would buy me these disposables and we’d just go around the house taking pictures. I didn’t see my dad all the time and so anytime I was with my dad, him and his wife would take pictures because before they had their first kid I was like their kid. Then when I grew up I kind of lost interest in taking pictures because I wanted to be an astronaut and then a physicist and so I studied science for all those years, and then when I came back to England I was like “I don’t wanna do science, let’s be realistic, you’re not going to be a physicist! Choose something that you’re going to like!” I didn’t know what I wanted to do and so I picked photography and history of art and then that grew my interest. I think it’s helped me because when I was younger I had a hard time communicating with my mother, because my mum’s very difficult to get along with and so is my dad, so art especially, I wouldn’t say photography per se, but drawing helped me process a lot of things. Photography came a little bit later because I didn’t have the equipment around me 24/7, but when I did start I was always with a camera around the house taking photos.”- August 2017- Tia (@t13_abes) is a 20 year old black Muslim revert from the Caribbean who converted to Islam after a long period of questioning various major religions. She’s currently in her third year of BA Photography shooting fashion, social and documentary work in London. You can see her work at tiaabes.foliohd.com and read more about her on the link in the bio #reclaimingmuslim

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“Being Muslim is everything to my day to day existence. I may not be the most practicing Muslim in the world but my inherent morals and values of life are morals that have been taught to me by my religion, so that’s not to say those morals are different to normal human values, but I’ve been taught it via and through my religion. And because my day to day belief is “what does God want me to do” and “what does the Quran advise me to do”, and they’ve been drummed into me, how I came across on the show; how I deal with people, how I deal in my workplace, with my parents, with children, with everyone is shaped by my religion. So it’s everything. . If I could make the world understand or be aware of one thing it would be that Islam, as a religion, does not teach or encourage violence or hatred or divisions or terrorism. Like all religious scriptures, you can handpick quotations that do seem violent when they are seen as a standalone statement, but there is a context to everything and if you look at the overall picture of Islam and if you look at the majority 99% of Muslims in the world they are all equally as against terrorism as the average non-Muslim person.”- June 2017- Mehreen Baig (@queenmehreen) is a 27 year old British-Asian who after taking part in BBC’s “Muslims Like Us” has been pursuing a profession in TV. She recently finished her career as an English teacher and aims to be a more identifiable role model for young British-Asian girls. Read more about her on the link on the bio #reclaimingmuslim

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“Since Muslims Like Us I have had overwhelmingly positive feedback and I think it’s because there is a lack of Asian representation in the media, so as soon as people, especially young Asian girls, saw someone who vaguely reminded them of themselves, they were really interested and wanted to find out more about me. So my social media exploded and therefore TV companies gained a lot of interest in me. Before that if we watched TV, all we had to see to remind ourselves of someone like us is Goodness Gracious Me which isn’t a real representation of what Asian people are like these days. I wasn’t ever really into TV ironically growing up, maybe subconsciously that was because there was no one I could look up to and aspire to be like. I was into music so people like Rihanna and Beyoncé… I wouldn’t say I looked up to them, though. I looked up to real people in real life because you could aspire to be like them and it was realistic. . In my house, we’ve always been taught that everything is done in balance, everything is done in moderation, nothing is done in the extreme, so I can’t tell you I feel more Asian than British or British than Asian. There are parts of both my cultures that I adore and I embrace and there are parts of both my cultures that I’m not so keen on, that I don’t necessarily participate in. I don’t drink, so it doesn’t mean I won’t ever go to a pub, but you won’t ever find me getting drunk with my friends at the same time. I don’t dress in a way where you would typically expect an Asian girl to dress, I dress in a very western way. So I embrace the bits of both that I like and I think it makes quite a balanced mix.” [continued in comments] – June 2017- Mehreen Baig (@queenmehreen) is a 27 year old British-Asian who after taking part in BBC’s “Muslims Like Us” has been pursuing a profession in TV. She recently finished her career as an English teacher and aims to be a more identifiable role model for young British-Asian girls. Read more about her on the link on the bio #reclaimingmuslim

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“One of the best experiences that I’ve had was during Ramadan and I was reading my Quran on the tube and this guy was standing behind and we ended up having a one hour conversation just talking about Islam, Christiantiy, belief in God etc. and I think those kind of conversations where you know people aren’t looking for points to attack you with, instead they’re just wanting to learn more about who you are, how your faith enhances you, what does your faith tell you. Those are the kinds of conversations that enriches both sides of the party, so ideally I’d love for people not to see me as someone to hate, but someone to have a conversation with about what does your faith actually mean to you, what does it teach you, how does it make you a better human being. I think going outside of our comfort zones is important to build bridges. Actually, there’s a line in the Quran about how you were created to get to know each other and you were created to be of different races and of different languages, and that is always in the back of my mind, that we were created to get to know each other and we have differences and diversity for a reason, so if you don’t go beyond your circle then how do you get to understand people better?” August 2017 #reclaimingmuslim . Mahmoudat (@muslimgirljournal) was born in Nigeria but moved to the UK as a teenager and is currently studying accounting and finance at LSE whilst also running her blog muslimgirljournal.com where she writes about various topics including politics, religion, literature and mental health. See more from Mahmoudat at charlottebibby.co.uk/mahmoudat

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“So obviously Steven [Ruwaydah’s Fiancé during the interview, now married] converted into Islam and I was born a Muslim, so for me I’ve kind of always been confused as to how I wanted to portray Islam or how I wanted to implement it into my life, and what I’ve decided more recently is being a good Muslim is one: being true to yourself, and being true to God, and also practicing as much as you can at that present time. Because a lot of people think that they’re a good Muslim because they pray five times a day, which is fantastic, but also with that being said, you have to be a good person and if you aren’t a good person doing those things within Islam is not going to make you a good Muslim. So I think you need to be true to yourself and you need to know realistically what you want to do within Islam or what you want to implement into your life to make yourself a good Muslim.” @ruwaydahhh with @owaisintheplace April 2017 #reclaimingmuslim . See more from Ruw and Steven at charlottebibby.co.uk/ruwaydah-and-steven

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Don’t forget to follow Reclaiming Muslim on Instagram.

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