Safiyya Hosein is a second-year PhD student in the joint Communication and Culture program at Ryerson University and York University. Her research interests deal with representations of Muslims in graphic novels, with a specific focus on ‘Muslimah superheroes’ (Muslimah= Muslim Woman). She is currently conducting a study on young Muslim consumers of graphic novels with the “Partnership for change: The RBC Immigrant, Diversity and Inclusion Project at Ryerson” research grant she won. Most recently, she has written a comic for the upcoming Toronto Comics Anthology #4: Yonge at Heart.
Photo Credit: Safiyya Hosein
What is the name of your comic and what is it about?
The name of my comic is “1001 Torontonian Nights.” It is about one of my favourite places in Toronto, the activist-cultural centre Beit Zatoun, which recently closed down. It’s also a tribute to the Mirvish Village. It’s about two Beit Zatoun regulars who use magic to try to keep the centre open.
What is your favourite comic?
Currently, my favourite comic is the webcomic Qahera, which is produced by a Muslim Egyptian female artist/writer. Qahera is a Muslim superhero who spends her time battling forms of feminism that do not include her, as well as sexism in her own community. It’s a fantastic read that is also free.
How did you get into comic book writing?
It was very organic. I ended up reading a comic series that was very insensitive towards Muslims and vented to my friend Ryan Clement, who is also a comics writer. He suggested that I submit to the Toronto Comics Anthology and viola! I became immersed in comics writing. I’ve loved every step of this journey.
What was your favourite part of the creation process?
My favourite part of the creative process is the writing. Comic writing is very intuitive because you essentially write a script and then describe the panels that go with that script.
In what ways can comic books remedy/combat social taboos and xenophobia?
I feel like the combination of both words and imagery have a power to confront sacred symbols that people often don’t question. Of course, the flip side of this combination is that it can also be used to reinforce stereotypes. Comics also have a way of utilizing humour and fantasy to tell stories in an innovative way that can engage us to think differently about certain issues.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get involved in the industry, but may not know how?
My best advice would be to submit to anthologies — or even to start a webcomic. If you have an idea, go for it!
Where can people buy your comics?
In Toronto, there are several comic stories in the city who carry the Anthology, including Page & Panel. I do know that the Midtown Chapters also carries it and it will be avaliable on Comixology by summer time.