Maryam Ismail | Caravan Daily
FRIDAY mornings is team sports day around my way. In Sharjah, the Filipino basketball teams are out before the dew dries in Majaz Park. Next, there’s footballers of all sorts are kicking and fouling, and far off somewhere there are cricketers batting centuries in the sandy lots wherever they find them.
Meanwhile, hijabi like my friends and I along with my daughters, kickboxing in Sharjah’s ladies’ park and we never asked Nike for permission to do so. Even before Nike came out their Hijab Pro, swooshed hoodie hijab, which is what we call it, I was particularly pissed by the use of women to sell anything, be it cars, computers, or ideology. First it was by bombs they said they were freeing Muslim women and now it’s by brands. Or were they freeing them up to sell brand America?
Before it was the bikini, now it’s the hijab. The saddest part is, instead of being awake enough to say, “No,” and forge their own ways, they are jumping for joy to be accepted. Really? From Islamic fashion to Islamic banking and halal food to nasheeds- Islam is being commodified and packaged to capture not just the dollars and dirhams of the Muslim world, but also their hearts and minds. On the surface the surface, it looks as though Nike, like other sports brands is just providing a service, but in looking at their videos they set the tone, for this launch of the product. It was also no accident that the Nike Hijab Pro video was shot in UAE, mostly Dubai, which has set its sights on being the capital of Islamic finance, shows that women have got equal opportunities in the economy. Here is where the ideology comes in.
Islam, which is seen in the West as hidden zone where women are cloistered which, in some ways, has been true for many Muslims who wanted to stay close to their Islamic values and have resisted market based values such as extreme individuality, selfishness, materialism, shun feminism. This bundle of values are being ignored in modern world which has proven disastrous. Millions of rupees, dollars, and other funds borrowed just to keep up the image of being a big person, sending many into debt and some to their deaths.
Is this what Muslim have become, jesters in the court of American interests? Islamic ideals, collective identity, of honoring your family values, faith in Allah, humility, anti-free market ideals if they take hold, could spread disaster for all of those with ties to the wealth that comes from the big brands.
Modest Fashion is not for modest people although it started brewing in 2009 with a few fashion. In 2014 modest fashion was the new hot topic. Back then, Muslim girls were posting their best outfits-of-the-day in exchange for likes and free headscarves. Then all of a sudden big brands got involved and forced Muslim women to do away with modesty. There encouraged the idea that modesty and fashion could go together. Could it? Really? Women strutting on a runway, posing, or hanging out in a photo shoot on some street corner.
OK, the stereotype is broken, but is this the best manner? And as for that stale ideology of Muslim women breaking those rubbery, unbreakable, stereotypes based on their misguided orientalism, who cares? Langston Hues, Modest Fashion promoter and photographer often said that MF was not about religion, it was mostly about a trend. This in itself, should have been a warning to not get it twisted- that even though 99.9 per cent of the women featured in his videos and photoshoots were Muslim showing what was going on. Or was it? What was the real purpose of the whirlwind wasn’t about documenting a trend as much as it was about creating one?
And so the trend was made and now it has been made into a solid fashion category which has now gone mainstream. Or has it? What happens when longer hijabs come back around as a trend? When jilbabs and abayas take the place of three-quarter length sleeves and tight leggings top off with a turban and hoop earrings? As for those entrepreneurs out there, such as the hijab company Capsters, which has been trudging along for the past sixteen years, this may have twofold effect. On one hand, it will bring attention to their brand, but it also shows superficially found love for Muslims is. In the end, it’s all about money, and not modesty, in a world where almost everyone wants to be famous, for the moment, wearing a hijab just might get you there.