Being Muslim in America—especially in 2017—isn’t easy. By most accounts, hate crimes against Muslim-Americans are on the rise, and the current administration seems laser focused on instituting immigration policies that would disproportionately target Muslims. Still, in spite of that—or maybe because of it—there are a number of hijab-wearing women shattering stereotypes around both the often-misunderstood traditional veil and around their culture in general, while using fashion to do it.
Nura Afia, a beauty vlogger, was hired as a CoverGirl ambassador last year, the company’s first to wear a hijab, and Halima Aden sported a hijab during a beauty pageant and went on to walk the runway during New York and Paris fashion week in February
And then there’s the rise of the hijab-wearing fashion blogger and Instagram star who make it a point to showcase that wearing one doesn’t mean giving up on personal style, nor does it signify oppression. Three of these women shared with Glamour how they’re using clothing to break stereotypes, along with the very personal reasons they’ve decided to wear a hijab.
Sobia Masood, @sobi1canobi
“My decision to start chronicling my style on Instagram coincided with my decision to start wearing the hijab beginning my freshman year of college. I was quite [into fashion] in high school, however I was very hesitant to wear the hijab [then] because I thought it would mean compromising my personal style … I [started to] realize that modesty and fashion were not mutually exclusive, and, in fact, they go hand in hand. Sure, there’s some improvising, but [personal style] comes down to wearing what feels right and comfortable.
A predominant misconception is that [Muslim] women are forced to wear black long dresses and face veils, however…the Quran doesn’t explicitly tell a woman what type of scarf or dress to wear and how she should wear it, it’s simply prescribed to dress modestly while encompassing modest virtues. Every Muslim woman has the right to interpret modesty the way she wishes and deems appropriate for herself. It’s as simple as that.
[The] hijab is something very personal to a Muslim woman and it means something different for each. For me, personally, it serves a [dual] purpose: [It’s] a means in which I use to strengthen my relationship with God and a means of empowerment. The hijab is more than just about physically covering myself, it’s about modest virtues I strive to instill within myself to hopefully become a better person. Also, living in a hypersexualized society, as a woman I feel extremely empowered when I wear hijab because it rejects any possibility of objectification. It forces society to look past my appearance and to look at me for what is important: my intellect.
I wrap my hijab extra tight these days, partially out of defiance and partially out of fear. I feel it’s my duty as an American Muslim woman to stand up and fight bigotry and intolerance. I’m hopeful my presence on social media supports this agenda of activism by continuing to break stereotypes and stigmas. I see somewhat of a revolution going on amongst my fellow American women. I see creative platforms being used to power change and I’m learning that when we all come together for a greater cause, we succeed.”
Heba Jay @heba_jay
“I started on Instagram back 2012, posting my outfits, and was getting comments that people wanted to see more and more [from me]. There weren’t a lot of Muslim girls in the mainstream blogging world back then, and there wasn’t anyone to look up to if you wanted to be fashionable and you wanted to wear a hijab.
One of my closest friends runs a hijab company, and says there are so many people who are not Muslim who buy headscarves. You don’t have to be Muslim to want to dress conservatively.
I see the women I know who wear hijabs reacting in two ways [to the political climate]. One is that they’re super scared, and take off their hijab. It’s hard to ignore the [amoubt of] hate crimes that are happening against Muslims. People really are scared. For others [like me], it’s made the desire to keep it on even stronger.
More and more, I’m seeing the mainstream catering to women who wear hijabs. Nike just came out with its first ever athletic [version]. There was a model in the Yeezy show in hijab and she walked during Paris and Milan fashion week—that was amazing.
I follow all kinds of women on Instagram to get inspiration, and I’m hoping all kinds of women can follow me for inspiration. I’m more than just a headscarf. I’ve seen so many bloggers get big collaborations—with stores like Nordstrom and Sephora. I want to see it to become more common for women like me to be working with brands and to be more visible.”
“I started my blog when I was in college in 2009 to help some friends that were struggling to be fashionable while wearing the hijab. This was a time when modest fashions weren’t easily accessible and so it was a tedious task to put together a cute and chic outfit that was. It required more work, more attention to detail, and more time. I wanted to show that it wasn’t as hard as it seemed to be both fashionable and modest, and so my blog became a source of inspiration for women who were looking for that style.
Despite all the strides that women have made in terms of making their Muslim identity be recognized and understood throughout various outlets, there are still people who view the headscarf as a backward tradition that has no place in modern society, which is incredibly disheartening. I truly think it’s because most people rely on the media’s portrayal of Muslims, which [in a lot of cases have] misconstrued who we really are.
The reason I continue to blog and invest so much time in keeping the content consistent despite being a full-time PhD student is because of the reactions my readers have had to it. When my supporters share stories with me about how my blog has inspired them to feel confident in being a Muslim woman and how they feel empowered to own their religious identity, it gives me the boost to continue to do what I’m doing.
Never have I felt prouder to be a visible Muslim woman and to be doing the work that I do. The amount of love and support that has been shown to the community on a local and national level by non-Muslims has been incredibly inspiring. It’s reassured me that there’s more love than there is hate, and that we aren’t alone in this fight against religious bigotry. It’s reminded me that now, more than ever, we need authentic representations of Muslim-Americans and the great work that they’re doing. In this post-truth era that we’re living in, we can’t rely on the media’s representation of who we are. It is our job to tell our own stories and that’s exactly what I’m doing with my blog.”