Modernizing Modesty

The hijab (حجاب) is a veil that covers the head and chest, worn by some Muslim women as a symbol of modesty and morality. The Western media often portrays Muslim women either as veiled victims with a lack of free choice, or a threat to the Western societies in which they reside.

However, the level of acceptance of the hijab is now evolving. As new generations of Muslim women come of age, they find ways for the hijab to complement their growing desire for self-expression. With this new confidence, a new breed of designers has developed, specializing in “hijab fashion”.

Hijab fashion companies currently have a great opportunity, in this untapped potential market, to showcase women of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages. in making the most of this opportunity, these companies may help to counteract the negative messages and break the stereotype that mainstream advertising may be sending out about the hijab. “As a Western woman, I appreciate the Hijab; it is important for the West to realize that the wearing of the hijab is a choice. Western culture is trying to integrate it, and I think it is positive, but there is a fine line between romanticization and appreciation” says Meredith McKelvey, American student at International Christian school in Kenya.

The trend, like so many others in the fashion world, could be just another marketing gimmick, except that the hijab is not just an article of clothing. iIt is a politically charged symbol.

Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves sometimes face challenges, but Stephanie Kurlow, a 14-year-old Australian citizen, is not letting anything stop her from becoming the first professional hijabi ballerina. She has been taking ballet classes since she was 2 years old. She has faced many challenges with regards to her faith over the years; dancing, according to some Muslim traditionalists, can be considered forbidden. Add to this the self-consciousness that also feels when she tops her tutu with the modest hijab headscarf, and one can see that she has already overcome many difficulties.

But she keeps pushing forward with both her passion for ballet, and her faith. Kurlow wants to one day open a diverse performing arts academy. She says she wants to “inspire other young people who maybe don’t feel so confident to follow their dreams due to the outfits they wear, religious beliefs or lack of opportunities.”

Jhillah Chaaker, an Iranian student at Rosslyn Academy, has similar feelings about the hijab. She says, “We are normal people, we cover ourselves by choice. I wear it to embrace the beautiful religion I love. Hijabs do not restrict us or exclude us from society when it comes to partaking in daily activities or pursuing dreams. If everyone else can dress down with shorts, why cant we dress up and cover ourselves without being judged?”

In January 2016, after 71 years of a tall and skinny Barbie, Mattel introduced new physically diverse Barbies that are curvy and small. Now, Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old who lives in Nigeria, is calling on the doll company to introduce “Hijarbie”- the new diverse body-type-friendly Barbies we know and love, dressed in up-to-date hijabi fashion. This Barbie would represent and inspire millions of Muslim girls around the world who play with the toy.

In our world, everything is changing. It’s time Mattel caught up with retail giants such as H&M, Dolce & Gabbana and Uniqlo, who have answered women’s calls for more diversity in their designs by stocking hijabs and featuring them in campaigns. The acceptance of the hijab in today’s world is truly inspiring and a positive move forward. As long as the true meaning of why Muslim women wear the hijab is not lost, the modernization of modesty is just around the corner.



Atheism is Terrorism?

There is now a policy in Saudi Arabia being implemented in which atheism is equivalent to terrorism. The law in Saudi Arabia now states that people who are nonbelievers are now considered the same as violent terrorists.

HRH+Saudi+King+Abdullah+Bin+Abdul+Aziz+Al+SaudIt has occurred in the past where people in Saudi Arabia who have been accused of doing something that is considered an act of atheism have been interpreted with that of a terrorist. Currently, any critical expression associated with the Saudi Arabian government’s ruling will be considered a criminal act and as a result the perpetrator will receive harsh punishment. This has been caused because of the large amount of people traveling to fight the war in Syria that come back with ideas of overthrowing the monarchy in Saudi Arabia. Because of these ideas arising in the people of Saudi Arabia, there has also been a ban on participating in hostile activities outside of the kingdom. Not only are atheists and people fighting abroad being put under fire, but this removes any chance for peaceful protesters as well. The people who decide to protest peacefully have also been included in the new anti-terror law that has recently been put into effect in Saudi Arabia.

The new law that has been passed now states, “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.” Not only will people who show atheist thoughts be prosecuted, but anyone who dares show support to said people will also face punishment for their actions against the Islamic religion. Article 4 explains this idea further, “Anyone who aids terrorist organizations, groups, currents of thought, associations, or parties, or demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom; this includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or circulating their contents in any form, or using slogans of these groups and currents of thought, or any symbols which point to support or sympathy with them.”

With the current ruling system in place in Saudi Arabia being based on the interpretation of the Islamic religion, it has been understood by the leader that anyone who shows insubordination toward the Islamic religion and laws in place is by definition an enemy of the state of Saudi Arabia. The punishment for the people who disobey this law and are considered to be atheists or “terrorists” is the highest form of punishment, the death penalty. The punishment of being a part of hostile activities outside of the kingdom ranges anywhere between 3 and 20 years of imprisonment.

– Adam Samji

Allured by, But Unappealing to Be

Of all religions, Christianity has been pretty alluring to me. The fact that I have grown up in a semi-Christian environment might have something to do with it, but having also researched other religions- Christianity and Islam have always stood out to me.

gandhi_on_christians_by_fiskefyren-d6brxpbAs of recently, I would have said that Islam was appealing to me, but I have looked into it more. It seems rather difficult. Besides the fact that I believe Jesus exists, is the son of God and did die for our sins (the last two points which contradict Islamic beliefs), there are more “steps” to being a Muslim. It seems that it would be hard to convert to Islam, especially for someone brought up in Christianity.

As I became more intrigued by Islam, I advanced in my research. So google, yes. Search “wiki how to become a Muslim.” Fourteen steps.  Not bad compared to eleven steps on “wiki how to become a Christian.” Know what it means to be a Muslim, learn the Hadith… Alright, googling Hadith. Talk with an Imam, an Islamic spiritual leader, but I am not exactly sure where I am to find one of those.

Say the Shahada that goes “La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” What if I say it wrong? Yes, I can always say it in English, but it just is not the same, like a Jewish boy reciting the Torah in English rather than Hebrew. It just isn’t the same. I have begun to realize I might have to download an Islam app with translations, meanings, definitions and everything else that I might need.

Another proviso stated by “Wiki How” is to abstain from pork consumption, carrion, blood, and xtian #2alcohol. Meat must be properly slaughtered by an authorized Muslim, Christian, or Jew. Eating with your right hand, practicing proper hygiene, and saying “Bismillah” (“In the Name of God”) before meals. I forget why I even go into a room at times, so remembering this would be a task.

The funny thing is that I once had a religion and it has all come back to it- to Christianity. How to become a Christian is to accept, repent and believe. Really only three steps. Simple. I find Christianity very enthralling in certain aspects.

First of all it’s the easiest. I can literally do nothing and still be a Christian. I don’t have to dress a certain way, eat certain food, pray a certain way or travel anywhere. Seeing that the “broke” life chose me, that last one registers to me. It is not a religion but a personal relationship with a living Lord. This is just mind-blowing to me.  And again Jesus was and is a pretty chill guy, a real homie that I would definitely spend time with.

What repulses me about going back to Christianity is Christians themselves.  According to the James 1:22 Christians are to be “doers of the Word.”  I am sure that that did not mean “doing” judging, being exclusive and hypocritical, but to “doing” love, joy, compassion. “Just doing Jesus.”

One of the biggest things I dislike about many Christians that I have met is they act as if they are better. I’m better than you, and you are going to burn in hell for all your sins, is the message I get out of most. How exceedingly egoistical!

I read a story in which a man attended a funeral of a young man who had taken his life. After the burial some Christians walked up to him and asked, “Why didn’t you tell the parents that their son is in hell today?” I was shocked to see this story (and that an ex Christian website with similar stories exists) and wondered if this is what Christianity amounts to. Above all things this is what I hate, when Christians intentionally install fear.

There is also this theme of “I have to save your soul” circulating. Yes, I understand they are to make disciples of people, but the way this message is brought about is just sad. It makes me feel as If they are trying to sell Dove deodorant instead of Shield. They are so obsessed with “selling” me Jesus that they don’t want to know what my value systems are – I might be a Christian already and I used to be, but they wouldn’t know. Why? They never asked. In such situations, I don’t want to seem rude but I never know how to respond to their attempts to convert me. This makes such encounters very awkward.

Plenty of Christians have also become determined to throw Bible verses at me. It may not make sense, or go with the topic of conversation, but it just has to happen. It seems like a “who knows the most verses” competition. Adding to this, there are those Christians who are just too nice when in company, but the bravado fails them when not in a crowd.

In Kenya you will often find the bad eyed and greedy types. The type to stare you down from top to bottom. My friend does not attend Church anymore simply because of this. He has a few tattoos and whenever he attends church he is stared at, and they are not in the least bit pleased by his appearance. The others will guilt you into offering; this is a big problem in Kenya that has to be adressed. People of God, like Priests, deceive other Christians into giving large sums of money (from people who have nothing), or make them buy gifts such as houses, all in the name of sowing a seed. Some of you who watched the horrifying NTV investigation report Seeds of Sin know what I am talking about.

In all this, I  do have to be fair and say there are many Christians who get it right. In fact, when I see a genuinely nice person, I immediately think he or she is a Christian. I have found that this type of Christian is harder to stumble upon than their counterparts. They are not perfect – no one is – but anyone can see they are striving to be, going out of their way to care for others and always being compassionate. They unselfishly serve others and veritably love people.

When Christians do Christ right, it’s such a beautiful sight. They befriend those outside their faith rather than censure them on how they are living their life. They draw people rather than repel them, from their faith. I hope to be aquainted with more of these type of Christians.

-Erykah Zimmer