By Simi A Mira
The stereotypes that are often associated to Muslim women and fashion are oppressed with no autonomy to express one’s self-identity. However, on the contrary the association is an inaccurate depiction of Muslim women and fashion. Today, there are Muslim women with a broad range of differences a part from each other, varying social statuses and careers: from the international singer Haifa Wehbe to the socialite, entrepreneur and former Shahs of Sunset cast member Lilly Ghalichi.
Muslim women who are not in the spotlight are changing notions of non-Muslims in a very elegant way, too. For instance, Melanie Elturk, a native of Detroit, Michigan, mixed ethnicity of Lebanese-Filipino and owner of Haute Hijab, created her company to fill a void in the clothing industry; the lack of modest options that caters to the faith of a Muslim girl.
“We wear hijab in order to be recognized as women of faith and not to be harassed or disrespected. Therefore, hijab is inherently not oppressive; it is those that choose to use hijab as a tool of oppression that have misunderstood the decree of hijab in Islam.” –Melanie Elturk
With Elturk’s mixed background of a Lebanese Muslim father and a Filipino Catholic mother, this validates the sense of choice for women and Muslim women to create their own expressive identities through fashion. Elturk chose to embrace her Muslim faith by dressing modestly, using color to express herself, mixing traditional and non-traditional looks to call her own.
Anam Shahid, a California native of Pakistani descent and editor at The Style Menu, Shahid stands by her Muslim faith and expresses herself using modesty. “My faith teaches that modesty is the best jewel of a woman, but modesty is a mindset,” she explains. Shahid has nearly 21K followers on her Instagram account incorporates her Pakistani culture using traditional jewelry and outfits with her own twist of inspiration, demonstrating poise and modesty of her personality and character. Shahid’s Instagram is very representative of her original style. Shahid posts photos of complete outfits with texture, patterns, colour and different hairstyles to match her look.
Irene Khan, a Detroit native and Bangladeshi descent destined for pre-med, or so Khan thought until she was exposed to an entry level SLR camera. The camera changed her. Khan went off to pursue the business world getting her degree in Marketing and Advertising. Today, Khan works as an international photographer and blogger who considers herself a religious person. Despite the criticism about her self-identity as a Muslim woman, she has been able to refute the criticism to carry forward her ambitions even with the most hurtful remarks such as, individuals telling her to leave the Islamic religion she said in a comment with Marie Claire magazine.
“We all fall on a different place of the spectrum and we are all a work in progress” –Irene Khan
Muslim women are still fighting the struggle to fit in, no matter what part of the world they’re in; it’s always a battle to gain acceptance. The stereotypes are real as well as the remarks made, a woman of the Muslim faith deserves the same order of respect that any woman of any other religion would receive.
These women described above are empowering and inspiring others of all faiths to create unity through individualism and understanding of ones’ religion, all while honoring their beliefs, background and staying true to themselves.
Applause is well deserved of all women who work to close the gaps of stereotypes and misconceptions of the Muslim religion, especially while she stays chic, stylish and trendy!