Photograph of Muslim woman in traditional veil and cloak holding up bra sparks protest among Canadian university students



17:38 GMT, 13 April 2012

A Muslim art student in British Columbia, Canada, has come under fire from her peers for displaying a provocative photograph as part of a class assignment, it has been revealed today.

Sooraya Graham, 24, who is enrolled in a fine arts programme at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, took a black and white picture of a friend wearing a niqab and holding up a just-laundered bra.

But despite her attempt to 'humanise' the figure of the modern Muslim woman wearing the customary veiled outfit, a Muslim student offended by the image tore the photo down and hid it in protest.

Laundry day: A photo of a Muslim woman holding a bra taken by a Canadian Muslim arts student, has caused outrage at her university

Laundry day: A photo of a Muslim woman holding a bra taken by a Canadian Muslim arts student, has caused outrage at her university

Amazed by such a response, Ms Graham told the Canadian Press: 'I found it really intrusive. There are things I encounter in the world I don't like or I don't agree with, but I would never take something down.'

For her part, the art student feels there is nothing wrong with trying to demystify the appearance of Muslim women in Canada by showing that she too wears underwear just like any other person.

Having grown up in a small town in Northern B.C., the visual arts student says she has a lot of ideas she wants to express.

'Even though some people want to silence those thoughts or make them go away, we live in Canada where as long as we're not hurting another individual we have that right to express ourselves,' she added.

But other non-arts Muslim students at the school who also wear the traditional headdress and full-body cloak known as the 'abaya', did not share her open-mindedness.

And the culprit who removed the art piece said she had been acting on behalf of these people.

Ms Graham enlisted the help of her programme's chairman who went to the as yet unidentified thief and asked for the artwork to be returned.

Though the woman in question attempted to broker a deal whereby the photo would not be allowed back on any school walls, the photograph was retrieved by university administrators without agreeing to any such terms.

Since the protest has gone public, an education centre in the city funded by the Saudi Arabian Embassy has expressed its opposition to the black and white image.

But classmates of Ms Graham's who were originally presented with the artwork found nothing inappropriate about it, explained teacher, Ernie Kroeger, who set the assignment.

If anything it has prompted important discussion he said: 'People with differences of opinion can actually get together and talk about it,” he said. “And find out what are the objections What are the issues that are raised Let's talk about them.'

Giving people something to think about was Ms Graham's initial intention, she explained.

'What I really wanted to do with this image was [create a situation where] maybe some students or some faculty members would walk by and have the chance to have some time alone to stare at the veiled woman,' she said. 'So that maybe one day, when I walked down the hallways or encountered them around town, it wouldn't be such a shock to see me.'