THE VIBRANT WORLD OF MUSLIM FASHION

A must-see show at the Cooper Hewitt celebrates these exquisite designs

BY WENDY MOONAN

Muslim fashion is big business. Statistics from a 2016-2017 report by Thomson Reuters and DinarStandard, a global strategy firm that focuses on the Muslim market reports that Muslim women spent $44 billion on fashion that year, which represented 18 percent of the total estimated $243 billion spent by all Muslims on all clothing. By 2024, DinarStandard estimates, Muslim consumers will spend $402 billion.

Before it closes on July 11, try to catch “Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” an exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City. Not only are there dozens of gorgeous shimmery brocade, silk and satin gowns from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Middle East and Europe, but also hip hop-inspired contemporary sportswear, videos of interviews with young women Muslim designers (half under the age of 40) and fashion videos. There are examples of haute couture that Westerners like Karl Lagerfeld, Valentino and Oscar de la Renta adapted for their Middle Eastern clients, and affordable dresses sold at Macy’s and Uniqlo. The show is the last stop on a tour that began in San Francisco and then moved to Frankfurt. And sadly, though the museum just reopened June 10, the show is only on view for just a month at its final New York City stop.

It is an important show. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” is the first major museum exhibition to focus on contemporary Muslim dress around the world—and it’s long overdue.

The origin of the show was kismet.

“It was one of the things I had in mind before coming to San Francisco in 2016,” says Max Hollein, the Austrian curator who became director of the de Young/Legion of Honor Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco that year, where the show originated. (Hollein is now director of the Met.) “It was the first time I was at an institution with a textiles collection, and because I had gone to Tehran a lot as director of the Sta[umlaut]del Museum in Frankfurt and spent considerable time in Istanbul and seen very fashionable women there, I got interested in Muslim dress codes.” (His wife, the Austrian architect Nina Hollein, is a fashion designer who founded her own label, NinaHollein, in 2009.)

FULL ARTICLE FROM SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE

History of women’s rights in Islam

Women’s rights have been a controversial topic throughout history. In Islam, men and women have similar rights, and in some areas women actually enjoy certain privileges that the men do not. In terms of property, married and divorced women have been given rights, and in fact at each turn they have been considered and provided for as appropriate. It is true to say that Islam gave women rights that are unparalleled in the history of women.

Prophet Muhammad said, “A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be as close to me in Paradise as my forefinger and middle finger are to each other.”

The Holy Quran repeatedly proclaims men and women’s equality in spiritual status: “But who so does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven.” (Ch.4: V.125)

Regarding education for girls, Prophet Muhammad said: “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.” On the economic front, Islam entitles women to possess money, property and other assets.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE PITTSBURG POST-GAZETTE

History of women’s rights in Islam

Women’s rights have been a controversial topic throughout history. In Islam, men and women have similar rights, and in some areas women actually enjoy certain privileges that the men do not. In terms of property, married and divorced women have been given rights, and in fact at each turn they have been considered and provided for as appropriate. It is true to say that Islam gave women rights that are unparalleled in the history of women.

Prophet Muhammad said, “A person who is blessed with a daughter or daughters and makes no discrimination between them and his sons and brings them up with kindness and affection, will be as close to me in Paradise as my forefinger and middle finger are to each other.”

The Holy Quran repeatedly proclaims men and women’s equality in spiritual status: “But who so does good works, whether male or female, and is a believer, such shall enter Heaven.” (Ch.4: V.125)

Regarding education for girls, Prophet Muhammad said: “It is the duty of every Muslim man and every Muslim woman to acquire knowledge.” On the economic front, Islam entitles women to possess money, property and other assets.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE POST-GAZETTE (PITTSBURG)

Young Muslim women are leading environmental movements grounded in their beliefs

Weeks prior to the lockdowns and closures that came with the COVID-19 pandemic, UN Secretary General António Guterres said 2020 would be a “pivotal year for how we address climate change.”

Revamped emission goals were expected from 196 countries, but with international meetings postponed due to the pandemic, the stark reality is that 2020 is one of the hottest years recorded.

Widespread action based on a deep connection between people and the Earth may be the space of hope. In researching what motivates Muslim women to connect with the Earth and lead environmental activism, I’ve discovered courage and deep conviction to be driving forces.

Young Muslim women are transcending boundaries to create spaces of activism. Their efforts are acts of worship that integrate social and political realities.

Islam and eco-consciousness

Historically, Muslim scholars coupled their study of nature to their understanding of Allah (God). The Qur’an articulates how eco-consciousness permeates every aspect of life and explains nature as a complete, complex, interconnected and interdependent system. It highlights the importance of recognizing and preserving the mizan, or balance.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

Who are you calling ‘vulnerable’? Muslim women and inclusive humanitarianism

Ahmed Al-Dawoody

Saman Rejali

In generalizing groups as homogenously ‘vulnerable’, we risk closing our eyes to existing spheres of power, diversity and capacity that exist among populations affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. By going beyond broad monolithic categorizations and instead accounting for the specific needs, risks and capacities of affected people through an intersectional framework, we can tailor our humanitarian activities and include affected populations as active agents with dimensions beyond their vulnerability. In this post, Ahmed Al-Dawoody, the legal adviser for Islamic law and jurisprudence at the ICRC, and Saman Rejali, Thematic Editor at the International Review of the Red Cross, explore intersectionality between gender and Islam, drawing on the works of prominent Islamic female scholars and leaders to profile how Muslim women affected by conflict go beyond the mould of ‘vulnerable women’ and exercise power and agency over their lives.

There is a shared concern in the humanitarian sector, which has almost evolved into a mantra: we must protect ‘vulnerable groups, particularly women and children‘ and uphold the rights of ‘the most vulnerable‘ in compliance with international humanitarian law.

The aim is commendable: let us be of service to those who need it the most and designate our resources accordingly. However, it is time to be more specific about how we use the label of vulnerability, and in so doing engage in more inclusive humanitarian action by considering the specific perspectives, abilities and needs of the affected people we aim to serve. What sets women apart from children? Are all women and children equally vulnerable? How about women — do they all face the same needs? And — more to the point of this post — what about Muslim women in armed conflicts and other situations of violence: should they be lumped together as homogenously vulnerable, or should we instead look to them as the agents of their own lives and follow their lead?

FULL ARTICLE FROM RELIEFWEB INTERNATIONAL

Muslim Women don’t need saving

Gendered Islamophobia in Europe

Upon declaring a Global War on Terror in 2001, the US administration claimed that the “fight against terrorism was also a fight for the rights and dignity of women”. In the years that followed, western political discourse regularly referred to the need to “free” apparently oppressed Muslim women from the shackles of their religion and way of life, reviving political and societal debates about head coverings, integration, gender equality, secularism, and neutrality.

Relying on Islamophobic stereotypes, and with no regard for the rights to freedom of expression or freedom of religion, laws and policies were introduced in a number of European countries, which banned the hijab and/ or niqab. In perhaps the most flagrent example of just how entrenched Islamophobia has become, European states, in effect, began legislating on Muslim women’s bodies, dictating which clothes they could or could not wear.

Download the full report here.

In the post 9/11 era, political discourse increasingly pointed towards an apparent incompatibility between what it is to be European and what it is to be Muslim; it seemed impossible to be both. Although anti-Muslim rhetoric has implications for all Muslims, much of the legislation rolled out and the policies implemented either specifically target, or disproportionately affect, Muslim women.

Much can be said about the increased policing of Muslims collectively and the systematic targeting of Islamic places of worship, but Muslim women, in particular, have borne the brunt of state led, racist laws and policies. Those who wear head coverings and Islamic attire are easily identifiable and have thus become easy targets. Following bans on Islamic dress, Muslim women have found themselves increasingly vulnerable and exposed to gendered Islamophobic attacks, while their rights to religious freedom, freedom of expression, equality and non-discrimination have been sidelined or ignored. Attacks motivated predominantly by religion and gender have largely been normalised.

FULL ARTICLE FROM TNI.ORG

Marvel’s first on-screen Muslim superhero — Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel’s alter-ego — inspires big hopes

Amid the stress of a rising second wave of COVID-19, comic book fans found something to celebrate this September. Marvel Studios announced the casting of its first on-screen Muslim superhero, Kamala Khan, the alter-ego of Ms. Marvel.

Much like Canadian teen actress Iman Vellani who was plucked for this role, Kamala has been a virtual unknown outside of comic fandom despite being a sensation since her series debut at the top of comic book sales charts in 2014.

It should be no surprise then that Marvel Studios decided to capitalize on this success and signed Kamala for her own TV series on Disney+ for an anticipated debut in late 2021 or early 2022.

As a researcher who has examined Muslim superheroes in American comics, I find Kamala to be the most intriguing of all American Muslim superheroes. She has an ability to destabilize stereotypes of Muslims while reinforcing ideas about American exceptionalism. In the hands of different writers in various comic iterations, she has appeared as multi-dimensional and stereotype-breaking, but also as a one-dimensional figure that advances Islamophobic themes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CONVERSATION

‘Muslim Women Are Everything’ Turns the Page on Stereotypes

Dr. Seema Yasmin’s book, born from her frustration with narrow, one-sided narratives about Muslim women, breaks apart tired old tropes.

Francesca Donner

By Francesca Donner

  • Published Nov. 23, 2020Updated Nov. 24, 2020, 11:51 a.m. ET

— Dr. Seema Yasmin, author of “Muslim Women Are Everything”


Tahani Amer, an engineer who grew up in the suburbs of Cairo, endured a string of rejections before she finally secured a job with NASA’s Aeronautical Research program.

Marah Zahalka, Noor Daoud and Mona Ennab — members of the Speed Sisters, an all-female car racing team based in the Palestinian territories — defy expectations with every race they win.

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Gisele Marie Rocha is the unexpected face, in a niqab and burqa, behind Eden Seed, a thrash metal band in Brazil.

Tahani Amer dreamed of becoming an engineer. She is now at NASA.
Tahani Amer dreamed of becoming an engineer. She is now at NASA.Credit…Fahmida Azim

These women are validation of the premise behind Dr. Seema Yasmin’s new book — that Muslim women can be anything. The book, “Muslim Women Are Everything,” was released earlier this year.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Saadia Faruqi: Writing a Muslim Protagonist for Young Readers

closeup-e1538005858270As a child, my favorite books were those in which I could see myself. As a tomboy and a devoted reader, the titular Harriet from Harriet the Spy, and Gwen and Jill from the series Something Queer is Going On, became characters I could rely on for comfort and understanding. Only later did I realize that, on top of being nerdy tomboys, these girls were also coded as queer, giving me subtle permission to be who I was—who I am.

But what happens when a child doesn’t have models like these? When the books she reads are full of children who look nothing like her, whose families look nothing like hers, whose stories—while they might be otherwise relatable—don’t center on people like her?  The writer Saadia Faruqi worried about how this dynamic might shape how her brown, Muslim daughter—growing up in Houston, Texas—understood the world, and her place in it.

Born and raised in Pakistan, Faruqi moved to Houston with her husband shortly after they were married, and has since invested tremendous energy in promoting better understanding between cultures in her adopted country. She has been an interfaith activist since shortly after September 11, 2001, when she began providing cultural sensitivity training for synagogues and churches, police departments, businesses, and teachers, among others. Faruqi is is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry, and prose. Her essays on faith and parenting have appeared in TheWashington Post, UpworthyThe Islamic MonthlyCatapult, and The Huffington Post, among other publications. Last year, Oprah Magazine featured her as a woman making a difference in her community.

After releasing a book of short stories in 2015, Faruqi recently published her first chapter book series for early readers, Meet Yasmin! Illustrated by Hatem Aly in an energetic style that focuses on the lively protagonist, the four-book series features a Pakistani-American girl who is active, imaginative, and independent. Each book (all were published simultaneously and can be acquired either as one unit, or as four individual stories) features Yasmin running into some kind of problem—like getting lost or struggling to be creative—and figuring out how to fix it, all on her own. Faruqi knew that brown and Muslim children were already having painful conversations, out of necessity, about discrimination and bigotry. So she wrote a book that gave them a break from those weighty subjects. As Faruqi explained in a piece for Nerdy Book Club, “Yasmin is happy and healthy and faces everything that comes her way with determination and courage. She’s someone we all want our kids to be. She’s just an ordinary American girl, and my kids need her so much.”

I spoke to Faruqi via Skype on Yasmin’s publication date. She was charming, with a warm voice and an easy laugh. We talked about the burden of representation and the need for perfection, her sizable work load, and the big challenges and deep emotions that come with writing for children.

FULL ARTICLE FROM GUERNICA 

What ‘Hala’ gets right and wrong about growing up Muslim in America

c5709340-98b6-4391-ac0c-d04c21af442e-Hala_Unit_Photo_06Disclaimer: I don’t speak for all Muslim-Americans, but I can say that at least a good amount of us are tired of seeing the stereotypical Muslim girl portrayed over and over again.

And that’s exactly what “Hala” does.

Minhal Baig’s new film (in theaters Friday in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Columbus, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky; streaming Dec. 6 on Apple TV+) focuses on a first-generation, 17-year-old Pakistani-American girl of the same name (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) whose conservative parents expect her to marry a nice Muslim boy. Her parents had an arranged marriage, don’t want her hanging out with boys because reputation, her mom practically forces her to pray, but Hala is a “rebel.” She falls for the white boy in her class, goes out at all hours of the night with him and eats non-halal meat (halal meat is prepared according to Islamic law, kind of like kosher).

Surprise.

FULL ARTICLE FROM USA TODAY