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  • GAYA Magazine

One Hijab, Two Styles

PC Gap Kids

No this is not a hijab styling tutorial. I don’t think I’m at that level of hijab styling proficiency where I can whip up different styles with one hijab. I barely can fix one style!

No, this is about the recent Gap Kids ad that came out of the US where kids of different shades and ethnicity were portrayed in its “Back to school” ad campaign. There were kids with afros, kids with cornrows and yes, you guessed it….a kid in a hijab. This little girl was spotted in jeans, a t-shirt, a denim jacket and a hijab. Très chic, I might add.

Whilst the ad was praised for its inclusivity – not just cos of the kid in the hijab but also the African-American kids in the afro and cornrows – the ad took a completely different turn in France, even starting a petition to ban the ad. So as one side saw it as diversity, the other side saw it as travestir (French for travesty).

Reports are saying that French politicians are “sickened” by the ad calling it “promoting Islamism”.

Ok, in France’s “defence” (and I use that lightly here because personally I’m not defending the ban) secularism is ingrained in French society and is enshrined in the French constitution, unlike in the US where freedom of religion and expression is enshrined in the first amendment of the US constitution. Expression of religion, any religion, in France is banned in schools. So, for an ad – a “Back to School” ad at that – to air in France with a clear religious symbol, i.e. the hijab, it is natural and quite frankly, unsurprising that an outcry has ensued.

Another reason for the pushback they say is that a child should not be "forced" to wear the hijab at such a young age, that they aren't old enough to make an educated decision and religious practices should not be imposed on them. Ok ok...I see where you're going with this point. Many of us, even within our own Muslim community, debate about this. We can debate about freedom of choice till the cows come home. Ultimately, yes, the hijab is a personal choice. But who am I to tell a parent how they should raise their child. This line of argument is a slippery slope and I best not get into it.

All is not lost though as you will see in this RT News video where they interviewed French people on the streets. Some think the ad is fine and if the girl is wearing a hijab, that's her choice. (stop to applaud these people)

Again, I am in no way endorsing the ban on the Gap Kids ad. It is unfortunate that France’s politicians are attempting to politicize a marketing ad. One can argue that the hijab is banned or is illegal in French schools and this ad insinuates a young girl going to school in a hijab. Ok that’s up for debate. But do you see the kids in a school environment in the ad? No, the kids are merely playing amongst themselves and looking like they are having a good time at that; loving and respecting one another. And isn’t that ultimately the premise or the message of the ad? The beautiful diverse world in which we live in today where we can all interact as one without the cloud of racism or hate?

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