Written & Illustrated by Deena Mohamed.
I became aware of this webcomic only today on Facebook courtesy of a friend posting a link. The link above will take you to the main site, you can locate the comics easily from there.
Qahera is a feminised form of the word qaher which means “vanquisher” or “conqueror” or “triumphant”. Al Qahera is the Arabic form of the city Cairo. Deena Mohamed is an Egyptian woman, who aged 19 launched her webcomic in June 2013. The latest update is January 2014. Deena is a Graphic Design student.
Qahera is a female superhero who wears a hegab (hijab in more Western spelling) and the comic’s themes are mostly about women’s rights. I understand that to a degree these stories are based on life experience.
This is a very positive look at a part of society that resounds throughout the entire world. Firstly the fact that women don’t have a very equal footing in many walks of life throughout the world. Secondly that many people accept that that is just the way it is.
I can’t review this comic without my opinions being obvious; so I’ll state them. I am a white British male aged 46 at time of writing this. I am divorced and a Methodist (Christian), lapsed as I rarely attend chapel. I believe in religious freedom, thus I accept a Muslim woman may want to wear the heqab. I also believe in gender and sexual freedom, so in my opinion a Muslim woman can be devout and not wear a heqab. So my opinions on this are as an outsider in almost every way (except that Islam and Christianity are both Arbrahamic faiths).
Part 1 Brainstorm deals with the two opposing sides that Qahera finds herself in the middle of. Misogynistic opinion from men and interference from non-Muslim women fighting for Muslim women’s rights. Qahera doesn’t need rescuing from her heqab, nor does she need to be a second class person.
In ‘On Sexual Harrassment‘ we meet Laila Magdy, a modern young lady who wears westernised clothing in a modest way but is the victim of a sexual assault. She is blamed for how she dressed.
This comic is inspirational and it is possible to see the viewpoint of two women in modern Cairo we meet , read ‘On Music, Sort Of‘ for more on this as we see the different attitudes of Qahera and Layla to how men and women are portrayed in the media.
Basically I think Qahera stands for everyone’s right to be themselves. Something I fully agree with.
The scripts are clearly showing the writer’s opinion, which is why I’m showing mine, but it is clear she isn’t opposed to all counter opinion. The comic shows the middle ground where one side can meet with the other side. The scripts also show an understanding of pacing a story and delivering a message and are very well written, even if the reader doesn’t agree with the message.
The art is excellent with intelligent use of panel sizes, borders and gutters with those rules being broken to a very nice degree with the use of insets and splash. Some might point out that not all the borders are squared off fully but that isn’t a major issue for me here.
Media around the world have picked up on this webcomic, including Al Arabiya, Bloomberg and BBC and in other languages – Albawaba (Arabic), Actualidad (Spanish), 7lameslamer (French) and more (a long list on the Qahera tumblr). Opinion will differ on this, obviously and each site will give their own opinion.
I find it encouraging that Deena has brought this superhero out of her imagination, onto the internet and maybe one day on to paper. I prefer paper… another of my opinions.