F a t i m a h W a s e e m

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This is not my hijab.


I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, whether it is a woman who struts the streets with no clothes or a woman who walks in black from head to toe. But I am here to judge a trend that is pairing “swag,” “hijab,” and empowerment in a tightly wrapped bundle that conceals what hijab truly encompasses. The women in this video are strong and demand respect. The trends this video echoes are not. 

And this video does not symbolize the hijab it should. This is not passing a judgment on any individual. We can’t shy away from talking about these issues for fear of coming across as judgmental, harsh, or Islamically incorrect. This isn’t about individuals who wear questionable hijab. This isn’t even about how to wear hijab. This is about the values this representation of hijab espouses, creates, and nurtures. 

Is this what hijab is? A plumped, fluffed, and frivolous mash-up of modern tends laced in showing one’s figure? Is this “swag” the way to show the the empowerment of Muslim women? Is this the kind of image you would want your little sister or your daughter to chase after? Is this version of hijab, modesty, and character the only way to tell the world that we are empowered, confident, and alive? 

The women in this video have not contracted themselves to be representatives of what hijab is and should be. They simply are what they are. This is by no means their job or anyone’s for that matter. But by stepping on this public pedestal, they broadcast a view of what hijabi is, not what hijab is necessarily. It may be intentional, it may be not, but the point is, this fluffed up version of hijab is out there. It is in our minds. It teaches us and informs us.

When Muslimahs place themselves in the public spotlight, it’s inevitable for this kind of criticism to be seen as an attack on their religion, character, or way of life. But it shouldn’t be that way. I’m criticizing something bigger, something deeper than how the folds of your hijab fall and how tight your skinny jeans are.

Some say that this hijab revolution makes hijab more desirable, pushing young girls to take it on with a different mentality. It’s exactly this kind of popularity that is the problem. As is with any mass media representation of beauty, fashion, or culture, there is danger in idealization. There is danger in creating personality out of what begins as a simple cloth. There is danger in pairing this kind of swag with empowerment.

We’re following the same path we’ve been criticizing popular media about - creating a veil of oppression out of covered Muslim women. This time, however, the veil conceals ourselves, our creed, and who we ought to be. 

Ten years from now, I don’t want by hijab tied up in a knot. I don’t want to look at my Muslim media and say that we furthered a media representation that is as flawed and one dimensional as the critics we have been challenging since day one. 

When I show my future daughter a video like this, I will tell her not to pass judgment. I will tell her these women are Muslimahs. And then I will teach her hijab.

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