American Flag Hijab

The print edition of Friday’s Washington Post, on the last page of the A Section, contained a full-page advertisement featuring a “painting” of an arresting Muslim woman in an American flag hijab.  The image appears to be the work of Shepard Fairley, the artist who created the now iconic (if illegally copied) Obama Hope picture of 2008.  It is a clever and insidious piece of leftist/Islamist propaganda put out by a far-left organization called the Amplifier Foundation, which obviously hopes it will become as well known and popular as Fairley’s Obama image.  It is worth examining for its tricks and illusions, as a cautionary example of how far the left can go, and how effective it can still be, in the age of Trump. 

People on either political extreme probably almost immediately see the image as subversive, those on the left in a positive way and on the right negatively.   I don’t place myself at either extreme.  Perhaps as a result, my own initial reaction was discomfort.  Guilt followed.  Why should I be uncomfortable with a woman in an American flag hijab?  I don’t have a problem with Muslim women wearing hijabs (as opposed to full chadors which are more problematic for security and social reasons.) 

According to polls my attitude appears to track with most Americans, 62% of whom hold a favorable attitude toward Muslims, with a lower number (only 44%) holding a favorable opinion of Islam as a creed.  Those polls skew predictably whether respondents are Republican or Democrat, with the former less positive, the latter much more, and independents in the middle.   

My initial reaction toward the image was mistaken.  The image is strongly subversive, anti-American and pro-Islamist, but cleverly designed to elicit just the response I first gave to it, which is to provoke a degree of discomfort and then guilt, thus promoting the idea that America is a hotbed of Islamophobia. 

Looking closely at the image we can see how it does this, so it might be explained to people who find themselves initially sympathetic.

First it uses the flag as an article of clothing.  This is something the left started as a pop-culture meme in the Vietnam era that is now such a commonplace that few now recognize the degradation of what had been a sacred patriotic image.  Today plenty of patriotic Americans wear flag imagery, without understanding that in staining it, washing it and perhaps eventually using it as a rag, they demean it.

Second, it subordinates the flag image to Islam in the form of the hijab.  Were Islam a strictly religious creed this might be less of a problem, but of course Islam is inherently political as well as spiritual.  Islam doesn’t recognize the separation of church and state, so while a naïve American might see this as a “patriotic Muslim” image, it really is anything but that.  In the Islamic view, church and state may only be properly combined in an Islamic state. 

Third, if there were any doubt as to whether the woman depicted is a “patriotic American Muslim” one need only examine her face to dispense with that idea.  See is not smiling, nor seemingly proud of her Stars and Stripes covering.  Rather her visage is at once seductive and defiant.  She is a caricature of a beautiful Middle Eastern woman, with oversized eyes, nose and lips.  At once Mata Hari and Tashfeen Malik.  The intention is to seduce and intimidate at the same time.  If there were any doubt about the latter, the caption of the image itself invokes the word “fear” subliminally reinforcing the idea. 

Finally, is the use of coloring.  Like the Obama Hope image, the flag is not actually red, white and blue, but rather a muted red, beige and gray/blue.  This distortion is also intentional; it is not the American flag we are looking at, but a degraded facsimile.  Like the use of the flag as clothing, this is an old trick of overrated leftist artists, most famously by Jasper Johns.

Since it worked on me at least initially, it is probably safe to say it will provoke similar reactions in many if not most Americans who view it.  This promotes the false idea the Americans are inveterate Islamophobes, strengthening the far left’s opposition to commonsense security proposals on immigration and criminal profiling. 

Nor does it appear that the organization that produced and published the image is a small proletarian band of brave liberal artists as their website implies.  Full back page ads at the Washington Post are not cheap, running $28,954 for a weekday edition.  That shows the organization is backed by someone with serious cash on hand. 

The image was clearly prepared and published to support the Women’s March on Washington, another far left propaganda stunt promoted in the mainstream media as an organic grassroots movement, but which is much more deliberate and insidious.  The Amplifier Foundation appears to be heavily involved in the enterprise.  This image was created and distributed at considerable expense to promote an anti-American leftist agenda that if carried to its philo-Islamist fruition would be extremely harmful to American women.  This is quite good evidence of unseen hostile leftist financing such as George Soros or the like.  Since the left is now back in protest mode rather than in executive control, we can expect to see a lot more like this.