Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Anoosh Soltani, PhD candidate, University of Waikato
How Muslim women break stereotypes by mixing faith and modesty with fashion Ardern, wearing a hijab, is depicted on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. EPA, CC BY-ND

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s decision to wear a headscarf following the Christchurch mosque attacks in March has earned her worldwide praise. But in an online backlash, critics pointed out that women in conservative Muslim countries have no choice and risk public rebuke, fines or even arrest if they don’t cover up.

This is a longstanding controversy around the Muslim veil. Is it a tool for oppressing women or can it also carry other meanings?

Our explorative research, based on interviews with young Muslim women living in a New Zealand city, shows how they use their everyday lives and identity to change stereotypes of oppression.

Read more: How a growing number of Muslim women clerics are challenging traditional narratives

Controversial covering

In the aftermath of the September 11 (9/11) 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and the subsequent “war on terror”, veiled Muslim women received much attention from Western politicians, media and academics. Debates tended to frame Muslim women, their culture and their veils either as symbols of oppression by Islam, or as part of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.

A perception of oppression of Muslim women continues today, but what is often missing in these hegemonic debates is the way in which many contemporary Muslim women reinterpret, understand and perform Islam.

Technology and social networking sites allow Muslim women to show there are many ways of understanding and practising Islam and veiling. In our study, we present two main ways in which young Muslim women use Instagram and Facebook to offer alternative discourses about Muslimness and womanhood.

Read more: Islamophobia and media stigma is having real effects on Muslim mothers in maternity services

Hashtag hijab fashion

The young Muslim women we interviewed join their sisters from all over the globe in promoting Islamic fashion. This movement aims to challenge the popular culture in which Islamically defined modesty and the veil are presumed to be ugly, oppressive and inimical to fashion, including the wearing of fashionable clothes designed to draw attention to the body.

Young Muslim women consciously mobilise social networks, posting photos and using hashtags that show them as fashion savvy consumers. Nurul Shamul is the first veiled woman in New Zealand to participate in the Miss Universe New Zealand beauty pageant contest. She explains:

As a Muslim woman, we need to be modest and we should not be chasing validation or approval from others by trying to look beautiful. But it was important for me to enter the contest with the intentions that I wanted to pave the way for girls and show that it is possible to look beautiful and fashionable but modest at the same time. It is better that there is someone like me that other Muslim girls can look up to and relate to.

Hashtag Hijabista

Nurul uses social networks to break the stereotypes and refute a binary view of the veil and fashion. Another young Muslim woman, Hassun Ali, uses Facebook and Instagram to change the discourse of veiled Muslim women. In several posts, Ali appears with stylish, colourful headscarves to suit her body-wrapping dresses and high-heeled footwear.

Ali always accompanies her photos with hashtags such as #muslimahfashion, #hijabista and #hijabfashion.

Most of the veiled participants stated that the Quran is the most valid source of information that requires Muslim women to wear the veil (hijab). Ali’s posts suggest that they reinterpret the Quranic verses (which call on Muslim women to display their beauty and draw their veils over their bosom) and rework their hijabs.

Young Muslim women in Hamilton do not wear the hijab to necessarily hide their femininity in public. Instead, they revisit the precepts of Islamic veiling and create multiple styles of modesty that are intriguing and draw attention.

Socially integrated Muslimas

Stereotypes say Muslim women are docile, self-segregated, and their faith and hijab prevent them from engaging in public life. Our interviewees reject such assumptions and actively use social media to change those negative images.

Read more: Five truths about the hijab that need to be told

Yasmin Borhan, a primary school teacher, explains:

At this specific time, after 9/11, I feel I have much more responsibilities as a Muslim woman in the society. I wonder, even though I am a New Zealander, to people here I am not a true New Zealander. I find out I have to present who I am. I feel like I have to act in a really good manner.

Most of Borhan’s posts focus primarily on her involvement with broader communities in Hamilton. In one post, she appears with a big smile while collecting donations as a volunteer for the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation.

Several other young interviewees also post their everyday lives on Facebook and Instagram. Their main aspiration is to change hegemonic views of Muslim women as powerless and excluded from social life. They also hope their posts encourage other Muslim women to become more socially active. For example, interviewee Mona Nabilah says:

I think in terms of Muslim women’s confidence, we could do more to raise their awareness of how important it is to be out there. I feel because the media is working to our disadvantage all the time, Muslim women stick together into their own communities because they are too afraid or they’re too shy.

Muslim women are working hard, online and offline, to reflect and increase their active presence in public arenas and break down stereotypes. Social media are the communicative spaces through which Muslim women show, verbally and visually, who they are and what their lives look like. Their posted photos are colourful, inspired by fashion, yet daring, thought provoking, and tend to reveal their everyday lives.

For us, the phenomena of hijab fashion and socially engaged Muslim women, and especially the current social media chapter, open opportunities for women to exercise their power and authority on matters pertaining to Muslim women’s bodies. Far from a binary categorisation of the oppressed and the oppressor, these phenomena signal a world in which Muslim women hybridise their faith and piety with modern ideas of feminism, activism and consumerism.

Authors: Anoosh Soltani, PhD candidate, University of Waikato

Read more http://theconversation.com/how-muslim-women-break-stereotypes-by-mixing-faith-and-modesty-with-fashion-110767

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Scott Morrison Virus Announcement

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon. Keeping Australians safe - that is the priority of our Government as we deal with what has been an emerging situation with the coronavirus. Each and every day there a...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Business News

Having a mentor is a must to take your business to the next level

Kerstyn Walsh will have the chance to meet her business mentor, LA-based wedding planner to the stars, Lisa Vorce, which will be game-changing for growing Kerstyn’s business Kerstyn Walsh, a self-emp...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

Is Hiring a Corporate Lawyer for Your Company Necessary?

Alternative online legal services like LegalZoom, Incfile, and Rocket Lawyer provides young and budding entrepreneurs access to legal help at a much affordable price without having to hire or meet a l...

Joe Curmi - avatar Joe Curmi

Top 5 Green Marketing Ideas for Your Eco-Friendly Small Business

According to studies, about 33 percent of consumers prefer buying from brands that care about their impact on the environment. This is good news for anyone running an eco-friendly business. It’s a...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Travel

Travelling With Pets? Here Is What You Should Know

Only a pet parent can understand the dilemma one experiences while planning a vacation. Do you leave your pets at home?  Will you get a pet sitter or someone to take care of them while you are away?...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo