A hijab by any other name is…fashion.

The hijab has been getting a lot of attention lately. Women who wear the hijab (Islamic head covering) are becoming more vocal, asserting their existence in a world that has attempted to define them. Women who wear the hijab are speaking, shouting, writing, running, jumping, strutting, fencing, dancing and singing their way to recognition, in an attempt to redefine themselves on their own terms, to show the world that hey, we wear the hijab and we can do anything.

Anything and everything. NOTHING holds me back. 

I am a proud, hijab-wearing, independent, Muslim WOMAN who can make her own choices and do whatever she wants. 

And the world is seemingly responding. People seem to be accepting the fact that (believe it or not!) Muslim women who wear the hijab are. Just. Human. Female. Girls. ETC. who happen to cover their heads and most of their bodies.

Which is of course a good thing. Right?

The “modest fashion” market is recognised as a booming niche that big corporations need to tap into. From Nike, to MNG, corporations are wholeheartedly embracing (or cashing in on, whichever way you prefer to see it) Muslim women by creating collections specifically for them, all touting the #diversity trend.

Hijab style bloggers are now found in abundance and are making waves by normalising modest fashion.

In fact, we just had our first hijabi model strut the runways at NYFW, with many applauding this “huge step forward” for the Muslim, hijab-wearing woman.

I happen to be a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman, and somehow, I do not think this is a huge step forward for us. I think this is a step in completely the wrong direction. Why do I think it’s wrong? Because it reveals this desperate need to “show” the world that we hijab-wearers are “completely normal” and more so, that we can also do “anything”.

Furthermore, it still espouses the concept of the “self” that is the object of worship in this 21st century.

Most of these things that we seem to be stamping our presence into are things that have all been done before by women, who just happened to not wear the hijab. And I’m saying hijab specifically because there are models who are Muslim, but just do not observe the hijab. There have been Muslim female athletes who have competed in the Olympics, but they just don’t wear the hijab. There are Muslim female journalists, professors, doctors etc who just do not wear the hijab.

I know the struggles and difficulties that hijab-wearing women face, the stigma that is attached to this choice of ours to cover ourselves and how much we have needed to work to bring down these walls of misunderstanding, of ignorance, of fear, outside our culture, and within it.

But simply throwing ourselves into EVERYTHING is not going to help us either. When we make the decision to do things that are entirely against the core values of our religion, it will inevitably harm us. Our religion is based on guidelines that clearly show us the limits of what we can and can’t do. This is something that we should have confidence in, that we have a framework that shows us how to tread the middle path, not throws us into an open field, leaving us to meander along aimlessly. We shouldn’t be trying to mould the religion to suit our desires and wants in this life, we should be trying to mould ourselves to do what our Creator has decreed for us.

I’m going to take the example of modelling and fashion. It is by its very nature an exhibitionist, shallow and demeaning industry. It uses women’s bodies with the intention to objectify and exploit. How then do we applaud and cheer when a Muslim, hijab-wearing woman has now been “accepted” by this industry? How do we say to ourselves, YES, this is progress, when the whole situation is such a contradiction. When a Muslim hijab-wearing woman can strut Kanye West’s runway and met and was styled by him and his wife Kim Kardashian. Yes, let’s pat ourselves on the back and be proud of our “steps forward”.

As we seemingly take these “steps forward”, in reality, we are taking steps backward as the more we engage in such acts, the further we move away from a core tenet of our Deen; the need for humility.

And the great irony is that as we scramble to show the world that we can do “anything”in our hijabs because we are striving to smash the Western narrative that Muslim women are controlled by men and were forced to wear the hijab, we are simply doing this in a way that still frames us within their narrative, within their definitions of what being a successful, independent, strong woman is.

That she must be beautiful. That she is valued for her appearance. That she must exhibit herself to the world in designer labels and a contoured face with fake eyelashes and lip fillers and plastic surgery, that she must strut down a runway to be an object, a clothes hanger… with a hijab on and an IG feed full of selfies to document all this.

It actually makes me incredibly sad. It makes me so sad because I think about the example that we are setting for our young girls. Are we showing them anything different? Are we showing them that we need to hold onto the rope of our Deen, and that this might (or does) look different from the “norm”, and that no, we don’t need to strive to be styled by Kim and Kanye, and that this is something that we should be thankful for, that we should be confident in, as Muslims.

As Muslims.

Not as women. Not as hijab-wearing women.

But as a Muslim. As a servant of Allah (swt).

That we are able to be confident in what Allah (swt) has decreed for us and not just attempt to “break down barriers” simply for its own sake. Not because “hey, I want to be the first so-and-so to do this in a hijab…” so that I can “go viral”, oops I mean, “break stereotypes” and “empower women…”

What we are taking away from ourselves and our youth is the history, the beauty, the wisdom, the incredibly unique culture and religion that they come from and we are telling them that this is superseded by the need to fit into this (Western) world.

We are not taking back our own narrative. We are not redefining our selves. In fact we are fighting to be permeated, assimilated, obliterated into a culture whose values are against everything that the religion that we so obviously parade and hold up the flag with our hijabs, stands for.

This is not to say that “Western culture” is “wrong”. What I’m referring to is the capitalist, consumerist, exhibitionist, narcissistic, shallow and exploitative culture of fashion, of music, of Hollywood and so on.

Delpozo’s Fall/Winter 2017 Ready to Wear collection was interesting for me because the collection included this…

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.37.20 pm

Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 11.36.44 pm

Hijab? Nope. Just “art”.  Just “fashion”. Just “ready-to-wear”. Just Vogue.

How different is it from this?

f1c8d652dd584002625765e6421439f6

It’s not.

Both are art and fashion. Both are simply garments. Both objectify women by placing them on a platform strutting to fast-paced music. One is designed by a non-Muslim, the other by a hijab-wearing female Muslim designer. Sure the intentions are different, but the outcome is the same. Both place the woman as an object to be gawked at.

And so, “hijab” by any other name is simply…fashion.

Unless, we define ourselves, our hijab, in the terms of the religion that we claim to follow. Unless we take back the definitions of what it means to be female and Muslim.

There is another way to “break stereotypes”. There is another way to engage with the fashion world. A way that does not compromise the values of the religion that we proclaim to want to teach the world about. A way that is confident and uncompromising and unique.

Yes we live in this world, but we do not live for this world. And our attempts to be seen as “normal” should not come at the cost of our values. We should revel in the beauty of our religion and go out into the world confident in it, not for the sake of this world, or for society, or culture, or breaking down stereotypes, or acceptance, but for the sake of pleasing our Creator.

I am not raising my daughter with the mantra of the 21st Century, “you can be anything you want to be…” I want to raise my daughter to spend her life seeking what it is that Allah swt has decreed for her, and to fulfil this purpose, not for her to pursue her passions, her desires and her whims, which can ultimately lead her to folly. I want her to pursue the path that Allah swt has written for her, one that teaches her to put her Self aside, one that teaches her to serve humanity, the one that teaches her to have mercy, compassion, and humility…

Featured image source.

Conversations with kids

Kids say the most hilarious things, and I wish I wrote down some of the things my own kids say more often. Here are a few things my little ones have spilled recently…

When I came back from the hospital and J said to me:

“Mum, why do you still have a baby in your tummy?”

Me: “Umm… there’s no baby in there J. My tummy is just going to take some time to return to normal.”

J: “Oh, ok. I don’t like it like that. It needs to be flat again!”

Me: *tears streaming down my face… “This tummy stretched to carry all three of you!!”

When asking why her 16 year-old uncle isn’t married yet…

J: “Why isn’t Emmi (short for ‘Amja’ or ‘uncle’ in Turkish) married yet?”

Me: “Because he is too young J, he’s still in school…”

J: “Oh, so he can get married in the school holidays…”

A few weeks ago she suddenly piped up with…

“An-ne (or mum), I want to be exactly like you when I’m older…”

Me: “awwww that’s so sweet… but why baby?”

J: “Because I love you more than anyone else.”

And when putting her to bed tonight:

J: “I can’t sleep anymore An-ne…”

Me: “Oh why not baby?”

J: “I just feel different these days…”

Me: trying not to react “Why?!”

J: “I think it’s because I’m going to turn 5 soon…”

And a few one liners from Z, who is talking so much these days…

TML Header Image (19)

Z: “Just leave me An-ne, just leave me…” as she shuts the door on my face in defiance because I wouldn’t let her do something. 

This morning…

Me: “Z what do you want for breakfast?”

Z: “Chocolate. I WANT CHOCOLATEEEE!!!”

And lastly,

Z: “all the girls love me An-ne, all of them!” 

 

What social media is really about

I am on social media a lot.

Recently I admitted to myself that I am addicted to it. That I spend way too much time on it. That it is taking over my life and turning me into an automaton. Yes my eldest has yelled at me numerous times to put my phone down. And yes, I’ve written before about how allowing kids screen time is madness, and yet here I am, admitting that I am addicted to social media. Hypocritical much?

Possibly…

I told myself that I actually do “work” on there (I am the editor/creator of the IG The Modest Bride) and that it’s a way to pass the time. But I think what really pushed me to realise its true nature (Instagram in particular) is consciously admitting that ALL social media is the most pernicious form of advertising. And IT’S KILLING MY SOUL.It’s emptying my bank account. It’s making me anxious and making me feel like somehow my life is inadequate because I don’t have all the eco-conscious, organic, ethical, MINIMALIST THINGS in my life.

Oh the irony.

Or because my children don’t wear perfectly matching and boho, minimalist, stylish clothing and I can’t take Insta-worthy pictures of them in beautiful, natural settings like at a beach or a forest or some hipster cafe BECAUSE I CAN’T GET OUT OF THE HOUSE WITH THREE KIDS.

I scroll through my feed and see one beautiful image after another of perfect children in hip (and expensive) clothes in shades of dusty pinks, autumnal hues of brown and linen greys playing in beautiful rooms of pastel shades with THAT DAMN CANOPY (it’s so pretty though…) and vintage style bed with the same grey bed sheets and the same soft toys and wooden accents and fiddle leaf fig trees with kilim rugs and string lighting and cute wall art of strange and slightly creepy circus figures? Because all kids dream happily about the circus right?

And when I hit the image I can conveniently see where all these beautiful products are from and I find myself on a slippery slope from there… I go onto this company’s IG page, click on their website and before I know it my virtual cart is full of beautiful children’s dresses, soft toys, wooden toy cameras, ethically made children’s shoes and organic flower bath stuff, so that their rooms and their clothes and my house and my life can look like a beautiful Instagram feed from some perfectly put together Instagram Mother.

And whilst this isn’t a conscious thought, it is an underlying subconscious impression that imprints itself on our minds as we scroll through our feeds day in, day out.

What is also disturbing is that everyone’s lives are starting to look the same. Instagram is promoting an aesthetically beautiful (not denying this!) monoculture. Go through any number of Instagram Mother pages and you’ll find that they all look identical. They’ve all perfected the flat-lay with the ultimate prop- their baby- dressed perfectly in cute rompers and vintage style bonnets (which my two year old flat out refuses to wear when I tried to get her on board so she could look IG WORTHY) with some cute toys surrounding them (I just did this myself today lol), and throw in some flowers too, and those new dummy chains that company sent for free so you can add them onto your list of sponsors to advertise and market by sharing every detail of you and your children’s lives for the rest of the world to consume. Oh and under this perfect image of your house and free stuff you’ve been given, have a caption that shares in intimate detail your struggles so that you can ensure that people don’t think that picture is an accurate depiction of your life and so that you are #keepingitreal. There is such a thing as oversharing, and I feel like in the name of ‘normalising’ things, everyone is just sharing too much. It’s one thing to share experiences with the intention of bringing awareness to an issue, and it’s another to simply overshare details that really should be kept private. In the social media world, privacy is the enemy, sharing is the name of the game.

So what is social media really all about?

Instagram is a genius form of marketing which businesses use to push their products in a manner that is incredibly dangerous. We see their products in the lives of “normal” people, who can pick up a camera and create such beautiful images of themselves and their children so much so that people will buy the exact same things so that their lives can look like that too.

Also, I feel that it is totally putting a halt to originality and creativity. Because of Instagram and Pinterest, we see hundreds of images a day and they all look the same, and we copy and emulate those images. When it comes time to do something different, we can’t, because we’ve been so influenced by the imagery put out there and we literally can’t envision something new and unique.

Friends that I have spoken to recently have also aired the same concerns and have admitted that it makes them feel inadequate, and that it results in overspending. They have deleted their accounts and their IG apps from their phones.

I have also been using it less and less, only uploading what is necessary and not scrolling through my feed. For a time I didn’t login at all, and it felt so… calm. I felt peace. No longer did I have a niggling need to check it. I didn’t feel anxious. I called my friends and caught up with them. I cleaned my house. I did some reading. I spent proper time with my children. It cleared my mind of all those images cluttering my psyche and I was able to just have time to reflect and ponder and have gratitude for everything I did have.

So if you’re on IG or Facebook, I suggest taking a break and seeing how that goes for you. Trust me, you’re not missing anything, in fact you will gain so much from it and realise that you do not need it at all.

Here are two incredible analyses of social media and their effects:

  1. Quit Social Media.
  2. Technology is diminishing us.

f07b0289026cb54e78acbcad1dfd0f3d