Indian Project Trains Muslim Women to be Photographers, Defies Fatwa


An educational project in India is encouraging Muslim women to take up photography, in defiance of a controversial fatwa issued earlier this year that said the practice was “unIslamic.”

Woman’s advocacy group Aawaaz-e-Niswaan — which is based in the Mumbai suburb of Kurla — has trained more than a dozen women in photography skills, going against of regional customs and, now, this particular fatwa.

Haseena Khan, founder of the project, explained that she had been thinking about new ways to help Indian women break out of restrictive traditional roles when she hit on photography. Training women to use cameras would not only open new career paths, she reasoned, but encourage them to mingle more openly in a society that expects women to stay in the background.


Khan recruited professional photographers to help teach students, with the one requirement being that they had to work outdoors, in public. The students, most of whom had never held a camera before, faced up to the challenge, capturing scenes ranging from celebrity appearances to wife-beating, often while wearing a burqa. (Sample images here.)

Khan said the recent fatwa, in which the head of the country’s leading Islamic seminary declared photography “unIslamic” and unsuitable as a career for Muslims, simply adds more urgency to her work. “The fatwa reeks of the medieval mindset,” Khan told The Times of India. “Just as writing brings catharsis to writers, photography is a way of feeling liberated.”

(via The Times of India)

Image credit: Jama Masjid by Shashwat_Nagpal

  • Carl Meyer

    Because defying something from 1.500 kilometers away with several hundred millions people in between sure is going to make whoever ruled that fatwa change his mind.

  • petapixelguest

    David Becker: what exactly is your agenda?

    You are spreading misinformation.

    Please get your facts right. The head of the seminary did *NOT* declare photography “unIslamic”. Maybe you should read the original petapixel post on this topic which is quoted here for your convenience.

    “The rector of influential Islamic seminary Darul Uloom of Deoband, Abul Qasim Nomani, has denied that a fatwa “banning” photography by Muslims as un-Islamic had been issued by the institution.

    “Darul Uloom does not have powers to ban anything. It is the government that has such powers. Our fatwa department simply issues religious advice when its views are voluntarily sought by an individual for his or her own personal use,” he told HT from Deoband.”

  • pgb0517

    If you Google “fatwa photography,” you’ll see what Nomani really said, and it sure looks like petapixelguest is engaging in the typical word-twisting games common to defenders of Islam. From the Times of India:

    >Mufti Abdul Qasim Nomani, Mohtamim (Vice-Chancellor) of Darul Uloom Deoband, said on the phone, “Photography is un-Islamic. Muslims are not allowed to get their photos clicked unless it is for an identity card or for making a passport.”

    There is more on this from the Times and other sources. I guess the Times just made it up.

    So there is no misinformation here — other than that you posted yourself, petapixelguest.

  • pgb0517

    Unfortunately, it won’t.

  • petapixelguest

    You may want to consider how #1 media outlets rarely have the opportunity to get things right on topics that are on the periphery of their expertise and are too quick to publish articles without thorough fact checking #2 how media outlets in many countries (india not being immune) are dogmatic in their reporting with political agendas driving their ‘reporting’. Many outlets corrected their initial incorrect reports on this topic *including* petapixel in their original article, so I’m just calling them on it. pgb0517: as for the rest of your comment, let’s stick to the facts instead focusing on non-productive xenophobic fantasies.