Went to an exhibition done by a group of people I have worked with. About an hour after it had started a boyu came in a ripped one photo off the wall, demanding to know who had put it up and where they got permission to do so. He was the girl in the photograph's brother. He was angry that the photo showed her hair so he ripped the photo in two.

The girl wasn't present, so she couldn't stand up for the fact that she had consented to the photo being taken and displayed. In place of the torn photo, D, who was the main organiser of the exhibition, wrote a note explaining its absence and that it was taken down by a brother despite the consent and approval of the sister.

What's interesting is that I had a slightly distanced reaction to it. I was aware that normally, had I never worked with this group of people, I would have seen the action as fundamentalist, or extreme, or maybe even representative of Islamic attitudes to women. I was aware that it fit entirely into those stereotypes. But I know the people involved, so I knew it was about brothers and sibling power and rivalries and how any excuse can be used to put a sister (or a girl) down. It was about patriarchy enacted through that culture and religion, and not about that culture per se. What I was witnessing was an 'us' situation (us as women, because I know what a brother can be like) instead of a 'them' situation. But I knew that I could have used it to judge them as 'other'... and I guess I assumed that the other non-Muslim people in the room might use the incident to judge them in that way.

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