The West’s Love/Hate Relationship with Islam and the Hijab.
In today’s political climate, it’s not uncommon to turn the page of a newspaper and see the words Islam and terrorist in the same sentence. Muslim women get targeted for wearing the hijab. We get marginalized, we get called oppressed, uneducated, seen as less achieved and so many other labels we care not to mention.
But in the same breath, the hijab and our modest fashion is slowly (but surely) being taken over by the same group of people who have thrown those labels on us.
Major brands such a Dolce, H&M, CoverGirl, Zara, Mango, Nike and Yeezy, have all “embraced” the hijab. We use the word “embrace” here lightly cos question is, have they truly embraced the uniqueness and the beauty of the hijab and our sisters in the hijab or are they merely jumping on the bandwagon and taking a piece of the pie?
For many years, Muslim women have been forced to make do with the lack of modesty in the fashion industry. For many years, the industry that saw showing more skin made a woman more beautiful, didn’t cater to the demographic of Muslim women. To them, our fashion sense was backward. For this reason, Muslim women decided enough was enough, hence modest fashion brands started to sprout up. They did what the rest couldn’t and that was to cater to their own kind.
Fast forward to today and the modest fashion industry is growing at an exponential rate. At this point we would like to state for the record that Modest Fashion isn’t necessarily Muslim Fashion. Modest fashion can be worn by anyone regardless of religion. It just means more fabric and showing less skin. The hijab however is a religious ‘add-on’. Modest fashion is dominated by Muslim women because of the mere fact that it is in our religion to cover up.
With Islam being the fastest growing religion in the world as well as Muslims being the fastest growing consumer market in the world, it’s not surprising to see major brands breaking onto the scene. We’re all for inclusion, don’t get us wrong. Seeing a hijabi rock it as the latest CoverGirl ambassador and Uniqlo collaborating with Hana Tajima, gets us dancing on our tabletops (not literally of course). Yet at the same time, we ask ourselves if this is the representation we want.
Recently Gigi Hadid was featured on the cover of Vogue Arabia in a hijab and the online arena went crazy…and not for good reason. To many, it was seen as normalizing the hijab to what the West sees as ‘acceptable’. We didn’t feel it was right either. Why put a hijab on a non-Muslim, non-hijabi just to make it look like one? You can’t dress a cat in a bear suit and call it a bear.
Muslim women come in all colors, cultures, nationalities, etc. That’s the beauty of Islam. There is no cookie cutter mold for a Muslim woman. We are beautifully diverse. That is why we choose to put real Muslim women on our covers. Ok fine…that was a shameless plug but it’s the truth.
Going back to the major brands and their intensions. As much as we are all for inclusion, let us not forget that before these brands came on the scene, it was our Muslim-owned brands that started it way before them. Whilst we will give credit to those major brands who had the smarts to tag-team with real Muslim women to truly understand the market, many others have faltered simply assuming Muslim women come in one shape and form.
From a marketing perspective, they are doing what every business would do and that is to capitalize on the market share. But as consumers, and as Muslims no less, it is our duty to purchase with a conscience and to not allow the glitz and glamour of big names overshadow the sisters who have worked tirelessly to start the ball rolling.