The image of a veiled Muslim woman has conjured up images of deception and oppression, but now in this new millennial generation, young Muslim women are finding a new meaning in the hijab. It's not deception, it's fashion, it's not oppression, it's passion. I talked with 2 prominent Muslim women recently learning about how they wear the scarves on their head. They inspired me to see Islam in a different way, to spread diversity among individuals, and to be creative.
1. Maria Alia (@marialia)
Alia downloaded the Instagram app four years ago much like anyone who wanted to share pictures of their friends, food, and the occasional selfie. She posted what she liked and she was good at it. Her unique fads is what sparked her immense attention in the blogger world. "I slowly started getting questions about where certain pieces of my outfits were from and I realized people were interested in my personal style." She started to post more OOTDs (outfit of the days) and created a site to document her everyday fashion wear. Her site along with her online fashion career really took off from there. Now Maria stands at over 200,000 followers on instagram so I asked her what she wanted to say to all her followers if she could. She kept it simple and powerful, “THANK YOU.”
The Muslim Fashion industry is thriving right now, instagram-famous hijabis like Maria post their jackets, shoes, kimonos, or latest finds on social media, and people watch, follow, and get creative with modest fashion. Maria inspires women to feel empowered in their hijab, “one of the best feelings is reading that I gave someone the confidence to wear the hijab for the first time, or that I made a hijabi girl feel beautiful in the scarf,”she says. She makes a Muslim girl fit in today’s society fit in by not fitting in. Her diverse choices from high neck blouses to long maxi cardigans bring modesty into wardrobe along with style. Maria says she is not defined by other people’s perceptions or opinions, her advice to many Muslim girls struggling with their identity is to never let your insecurities hold you back from your goals and ambitions. She combats Islamophobia by being the the positive person she is. She sets a good example with anyone she encounters and thinks presenting herself in a friendly and gracious manner will help people see Muslims in a positive light.
2. Noor Bhatti (@noorbhatti)
Bhatti started wearing the hijab in her junior year of high school. She dressed modestly, but she didn’t figure out fashion until she started to discover other Muslim hijabi fashionistas. She started to explore her sense of style in college and began to incorporate her own little twist of comfortability to her outfits. Her tea bar flats are her most favorite thing in the world and her snug style keeps her cute and comfy. She stands at over 20,000 followers on instagram and so I asked her what she wanted to say to all her followers. Noor expressed herself fully saying, “do what you love, don’t care about what people think.” She said to take her generic advice with a heavy heart because people are always going to be unhappy with what you do, but you keep yourself happy and be self-confident. She often finds it eye opening when people comment rude things on her instagram saying her hijab is forced. It is put into perspective how much ignorance is really out there to Bhatti. Instagram is keeping modest fashion thriving, girls who don’t feel comfortable wearing hijab in the western world see bloggers like Bhatti and Alia and embrace their differences turning their hijab into something positive.
Bhatti’s mother didn’t wear the hijab until marriage, but her mother wore the hijab with a fierce attitude. Bhatti describes her mother as someone who didn’t care or feel ashamed of the scarf on her head, she saw her mother wear it with pride, so naturally she grew up wearing it headstrong. Noor gives advice to Muslim girls struggling with their identity saying, “it is okay to doubt yourself, part of the whole process, it’s okay to feel down because it’s natural, but don’t let it weigh so heavy on you.” Bloggers like Maria and Noor help express Muslim women’s fashion choices and motivate them to be unique and different while still making their mark.
It is important to recognize that modest fashion is on the rise. Stores are starting to sell hijab-friendly clothing, people are starting to recognize hijabi fashion bloggers, and famous brands are introducing models wearing hijab. The Muslim fashion industry is thriving, most people see Muslims in a negative light in the media, the portrayal of women looks oppressive. Muslim women are colorful, expressive, and iconic figures today which some people tend to forget. It’s not deception, it’s fashion, it’s not oppression, it’s passion.