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Painting of hijabi Muslim woman hung in US Capitol building

US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in Texas, US on 10 March 2019 [nrkbeta/Flickr]

An American high school student has had her artwork portraying a hijab-clad woman put on display at the US Capitol building, in a choice made by Democrat representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Sally Almaklani, a freshman at Renaissance High School for Musical Theatre & the Arts in the Bronx borough of New York City was, this year, part of the annual Congressional Art Competition, which is sponsored by the Members of the US House of Representatives, and is an opportunity to encourage artistic talent in different congressional districts.

Following the selection of the winners, they are then recognised at a reception in Washington DC later in June, with their artwork displayed for one year in the US Capitol building. Almaklani's final submission portrayed a Muslim woman wearing her hijab, with the message "my hijab makes me powerful" written on top in Arabic.

Her artwork was selected as the winner for the 14th District of New York by representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly referred to as AOC. In an Instagram post congratulating and announcing the selection, AOC stated that the artwork "contains striking visuals and a counter-narrative on hijab: that as a tool of self-expression, a hijab can empower young women."

She added that "Sally's depiction of a radiant young Muslim woman compellingly contrasts Islamophobic stereotypes against the hijab. And, the beautiful aesthetic, coupled with the powerful message certainly speaks to our district."

Speaking to the New York-based News 12 network, Almaklani expressed her hope that the artwork can "send a message to a lot of people" through its inclusive depiction of a hijab-clad Muslim woman. "I hope that every Muslim girl feels comfortable, that them wearing their hijab is what makes them protected and powerful in the future and in society," she said.

READ: Ocasio-Cortez calls out Israel for detaining Palestinian children in cage-like prisons

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