I was almost in the Honor Diaries – Why I Backed Out

In April of 2012 I got an email from a woman who said she was a friend of a friend of mine – she had gone to school with one of the women that I painted in Technicolor Muslimah.   From her personal gmail account, she wrote that my paintings “capture a unique expression which is often lost through mainstream media.”  She was in the early stages of a documentary film focused on women’s rights and women’s activism “mainly focusing on Muslim-majority countries” and wanted to maybe include me.   I was thrilled at the prospect of being in any kind of film to talk about my art, especially so early in my career.

That amazing opportunity turned out to be “The Honor Diaries.”  *gag*

We did a phone interview, then a skype interview with her and the director.  Throughout the two-month process, we exchanged a number of emails, and the Clarion Fund was never mentioned.  We spoke about the controversy around Mona El-Tahawy’s “Why They Hate Us” article, and I felt like we were on the same page.  I sent her some links and quotes like “I struggle with the fine balance of condemning violations of human rights without accidentally submitting to contemporary extensions of Orientalism” (link).  Her words seemed to speak to a respect and admiration for Muslim women, and an interest in understanding the nuance of this subject matter.

My flight was booked to go film in NY with the other women.  The very last email I received was from a different email address, one that said “clarionfund.org” at the end of it instead of “gmail.com.”  They had sent along a pdf with information on filming, contracts to sign, and official info about the film and the group.  Right at first, I remember feeling really intimidated at the credentials of the other women going, and nervous about traveling.  There was “yoga” on the schedule which seemed pretty fancy to me.  I thought about what I could wear during filming that would camouflage my baby weight.  At the top it said “National Security through Education, Clarion Fund.”

what.

National security?  What does National Security have to do with any of this?  

Who are these people?  I looked back to the front page. There was a graphic of a film reel with images from past blockbuster hits like “The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America,” and “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Their graphic designers had done things like incorporated an Islamic crescent moon and a gun into the typography.  Wowzas.  I had not heard of the Clarion Fund, so I googled them and perused their website, which was “radicalislam.org” at the time.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  This group wasn’t about women’s rights.  If they were, they wouldn’t have confined their conversation to Muslim countries (duh), and I’m pretty sure they would have been able to find more than 9 women to participate.   I was really struck by the fact that this group’s was defined not by what they were fighting for, but what they were against, and everything they do relates back to that.

The same day I got the pdf, I sent them an email backing out.

“I had assumed, for some reason, that you were working on this documentary as kind of an independent project.  Up until the last email, we had been corresponding from your personal account, which upheld my assumption that this was an independent film.  To be sure, I should have been more vigilant about finding out about the particulars involved in making this film.

I have some issues with the Clarion Fund, with some of their affiliations, and with the messages in their past films.  My artwork has a spirit of inclusion, acceptance, respect, and education.  I feel that, in general, the picture painted of Muslims is very narrow and monolithic, and I try to create art that helps to expand the definitions people have of Muslims.  I am sorry to say that I feel that the Clarion Fund’s past films and some of its prominent members have helped contribute to the perception of Muslims as “others” and, to be frank, I am uncomfortable working with the group. 

In addition, I feel that my artwork does not have anything to do with the “threats of political extremism.”  As an American-born woman, I really do not have insight into the challenges of women living overseas in the countries you plan to focus on, and have not “experienced firsthand the trials women regularly endure.”

I will need to respectfully back out of participating in this documentary. 

…I apologize for telling you this so last-minute.  If I had known, or had asked, I would have let you know sooner or declined participation initially.  Thank you for your kindness and for being so accommodating.  I look forward to seeing the film when it is completed, and hope that my reservations in participating prove to be unfounded.”


I spoke to the woman later, and she apologized and said she had not deliberately withheld the name of the organization.  We briefly spoke about the issues I had with the group and the framing of this story.  I did get the sense that she very strongly believes that what she is doing is right, and that she believes that she is helping Muslim women.  But I don’t think that makes it better,  just more frightening.

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14 thoughts on “I was almost in the Honor Diaries – Why I Backed Out

  1. Sweden now has the second highest number of rapes in the world, after South Africa, which at 53.2 per 100,000 is six times higher than the United States. Statistics now suggest that 1 out of every 4 Swedish women will be raped. In 2003, Sweden’s rape statistics were higher than average at 9.24, but in 2005 they shot up to 36.8 and by 2008 were up to 53.2. Now they are almost certainly even higher as Muslim immigrants continue forming a larger percentage of the population. With Muslims represented in as many as 77 percent of the rape cases and a major increase in rape cases paralleling a major increase in Muslim immigration, the wages of Muslim immigration are proving to be a sexual assault epidemic by a misogynistic ideology.

    • What is your source for the number of Muslims supposedly involved in rape in Sweden?

      I don’t think you care in the least about Swedish women. You are just trying to post something derogatory about Islam.

    • That is a made up LIE that you regurgitate like an empty shell without any thought behind it.
      You probably got this from some anti-Islam website run by either Robert Spencer, David Horowitz, Pamela Geller or Debbie Schlussel … here is the thing … NONE of these “sources” show links to the actual report.
      These sites use Anders Breivik as “source” … yes that Anders Breivik who killed 69 pople

      I realize I might as well be talking to a wall but let me try:
      Press release by Grethe Kleivan, Deputy Director General – Oslo Police District
      The Oslo Police District has given a report of rapes in Oslo in 2010. The report shows that for all types of rape, except assault rape, European perpetrators are in the vast majority, and they are mostly Norwegian. Assault rapes covers only ***5*** identified unique person. These have all a foreign origin. The number is however, so low that it does not provide a basis for drawing conclusions with regard to country of origin. Two of them were very young (under 18) and two had severe psychiatric diagnoses and cannot be regarded as representative of their ethnic culture. It is highlighted in the report that generalizations like “Oslo’s rapists are foreigners”, which have been seen in media, are wrong. The report gives no statistics regarding religion of rapists.”

  2. Thank you for your transparency in sharing this story. It is both warm and thoughtful, and gives some insight into how well-meaning people can be deliberately misled.

  3. Pingback: Ayaan Hirsi Ali - Feminisme, Islamofobie en een Eredoctoraat - C L O S E R — C L O S E R

  4. Mark. Your uneducated “study” is utterly refuted in other countries with Muslim immigration and also in other countries with non Muslim immigration. Nice try.

  5. Pingback: Ayaan Hirsi Ali – Feminisme, Islamofobie en een Eredoctoraat | DeWareReligie.nl

  6. Too bad. I think you are right to protest past projects by Clarion, and I can stand with you to minimize Islamophobia, but not when you fight to suppress this documentary. That the producers have negative feelings toward Islam is one thing, yet the film tackles issues that you, too, should want to tackle, and were willing to tackle until the very end. Many Muslims helped make the film, and support the film, and the message within shows Muslims and non-Muslims working together to stop abuse against women. But when people protest the film they protest the message. The film still contains value in helping Muslims and non-Muslims communicate, and you could have been part of that. The Islamophobia of CAIR vs. The Honor Diaries

  7. Pingback: I Was Almost in the Honor Diaries – Why I Backed Out | Gnu Reads

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