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  • Bad Dolls/Reappropriating BadnessPerforming the Feminine with Reference to Arab Muslim Dolls and Tiqqun’s Young-Girl
  • Rima Dunn (bio) and Adam George Dunn (bio)

Some Islamic countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, prohibit sales of the Barbie doll, because she promotes “degenerate values,” leaving them to the black market. The Saudi religious police (the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) denounced the doll as a blasphemous object, a threat to Islamic teachings, a “Jewish doll.” The religious police headquarters in Al-Madina hung posters in public places, including schools, that display a photo of a Barbie doll in a pink minidress with the following text warning of the enemies of Islam: “A strange request. A little girl asks her mother: Mother, I want jeans, a low-cut shirt, and a swimsuit like Barbie. . . . Jewish Barbie dolls, with their revealing clothes and shameful postures, accessories and tools are a symbol of decadence to the perverted West. Let us beware of her dangers and be careful” (Sydney Morning Herald 2003). The permanent collection of confiscated items that violate Islamic law at the Exhibit of Violations section on the religious police website displays images of Barbie dolls and warns that “the enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls” (Middle East Media Research Institute 2003).

Sheikh Abdulla al Merdas issued a fatwa banning Barbie and locating the problem in her unrestrained physical form: “It is no problem that little girls play with dolls. But these dolls should not have the developed body of a woman and wear revealing clothes” (Associated Press 2003). The doll is also referred to as a blasphemous object on the same grounds. Although human figuration is forbidden [End Page 275] according to Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia, the representation of the human body was not the main reason for banning Barbie. According to Merdas, Barbie’s “revealing clothes will be imprinted in [children’s] minds and they will refuse to wear the clothes we are used to as Muslims.” Merdas preaches against playing with Barbie dolls. He explains that the religious police “take their anti-Barbie campaign to the shops, confiscating dolls from sellers and imposing a fine” (ibid.).

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Figure 1.

Islamic dolls, 2014. Private collection

Iran took positive action as well. In 2002 the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults produced Sara and her brother Dara to replace Barbie and Ken. Sara and Dara wear modest clothing to display “traditional Islamic values.” “I think Barbie is more harmful than an American missile,” explains the Iranian toy seller Masoumeh Rahimi, stressing that the significance of Barbie’s danger is that the doll is “foreign to Iran’s culture” (BBC News 2002). The Fatima doll is a recent Islamic doll created in Iran and is designed to fight “the enemy’s cultural invasion,” as its creator Hossein Homay Seresht explains: “The Westerners, by creating Barbie and marketing it, are encouraging bad veiling and not wearing the hijab; all of these factors led us to take it as our duty to present Islamic dolls to the market” (Venezia 2010). In Indonesia, Sukmawati Suryaman described the process of creating the Salma Islamic doll for the Indonesian market. She was inspired by watching her niece play with a Barbie and her concern that her niece would lose connection to the Indonesian culture. Suryaman explained: “I was thinking I wish we have these dolls in traditional garb that fits our tradition. As we all know, children are easily influenced and often imitate their toys.” Suryaman said she ordered a large quantity of Barbie dolls from China and hired seamstresses to sew Islamic outfits for them. They thus became Salma Islamic dolls (Dhoundial 2007) (fig. 1). [End Page 276]

Islamic Barbies, as the Guardian describes these dolls (Tatchell 2004), are products commodifying Islamic identity. Although their clothes, a hijab and an abaya, fit their presentations as Islamic dolls, their origins as blonde and cosmopolitan copies of Barbie dolls do not. While the Fulla...


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pp. 275-283
Launched on MUSE
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