A MAC cosmetics makeup tutorial video for Ramadan has sparked some debate among Muslims online ― and, perhaps unintentionally, ended up highlighting how differently the holy month of fasting is celebrated around the world.
MAC Cosmetics Middle East, a regional branch of the New York–based company, published a video on its social media last week that proposed a makeup look for suhoor, a predawn meal eaten during Ramadan before Muslims begin the day’s fast.
After eating suhoor, Muslims observing Ramadan refrain from eating and drinking from until sunset, when the fast is broken with the iftar meal.
In the makeup tutorial, MAC makeup artist Mariam Khairallah demonstrated a custom look for the holiday. In a video titled “Get Ready for Suhoor,” she applies eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara on a model.
“You’re only a few steps away from your glamorous gathering look with friends & family!” the company wrote on the Instagram video.
Ramadan is a very social month, and many partake in the festive spirit by gathering at parties to break the fast with friends and families. But some pointed out that while it’s common to dress up for the evening iftar meal, many usually eat suhoor in their pajamas, scarfing down food hurriedly in the dark. In New York, the meal is typically eaten before 4 a.m.
Some Muslims took to social media to share how their experience of suhoor is not nearly as glamorous as MAC makes it out to be.
But others pointed out that it’s not at all uncommon for Muslim women in the Middle East to get done up for suhoor. In some Arab countries, businesses adjust their schedules around Ramadan. Companies allow employees to work shorter hours. Shopping malls stay open late into the night. And restaurants offer predawn buffets that start in the evening and last way past midnight.
Nilo Haq is a makeup artist from Toronto who lived in the Middle East for over 10 years. She told HuffPost she has been to suhoor gatherings in Saudi Arabia and Dubai that typically last until 3 a.m. Some women wear makeup at these events, she said, but they keep their looks very natural.
She said it’s possible that with its makeup tutorial for suhoor, MAC Cosmetics Middle East was targeting a very specific demographic. But she said the rest of the world probably found the tutorial “funny.”
“I believe most Muslim women in most parts of the world don’t get ready for Suhoor. On a normal day, I wouldn’t put makeup on for Suhoor,” Haq wrote in an email. “It’s difficult to get out of bed let alone wear makeup.”
HuffPost reached out to MAC and to Khairallah for comment but has not heard back.
Aisha Gani, a British Muslim who currently lives in the Middle East, tweeted, “It’s almost impossible to believe, but glamming up in the Gulf for your pre-fast meal at 2 a.m. is a thing.”
Others chimed in with their experiences of Ramadan in the Middle East.
Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, an American Muslim author and the founder of Muslim Girl, told HuffPost that the makeup tutorial caught her attention because she hadn’t seen the beauty brand publish videos featuring veiled Muslim women before. She said she would have liked to see the company publish a tutorial for Muslim women outside the Middle East.
“I think it was confusing for many Muslim women to see a formal makeup look being publicized for suhoor, even though it has become a social gathering for some Middle Eastern cultures,” she wrote in an email. “The thing is that not all Muslim women are Middle Eastern — actually, a minority of them are — so I would love to see makeup tutorials representing Muslim women that aren’t just marketed to the Middle East.”
This article has been updated with a comment from Nilo Haq.