“I Speak for Myself”
Ahhhh…finally! I have felt so lost without my writing the last few weeks. I apologize for this dry spell but school had kept me so busy with end-of-the-semester assignments, and I took my last final this morning. So I am DONE!
So much has happened since the last time I blogged, and it was so hard for me to choose one topic to discuss this time around and so this blog may jump around a bit. And it may be long, so bear with me.
It comes as no surprise that I want to discuss the reactions and debates that ensued after the “Mipsterz” video went viral. In case you missed it, I’ll post it below for you to watch. The premise of the video was basically a group of Muslim hipsters that have formed a group based out of Washington DC, and they showed themselves in everyday scenarios: skateboarding, taking selfies, laughing and hanging out in groups, etc. The song playing in the background is Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America,” and I’m not Jay Z fan, but the it has a good enough beat. However, it was the unedited version which threw some people for a loop. Whatevs. That’s not the only thing that upset people though.
One online writer posted an article titled “Somewhere in America Muslim Women are Cool,” where she went on to discuss the many “errors” in representation of Islam and Muslim women in the video. Now, I believe everyone should have freedom of speech and their right to an opinion; however, she was demeaning in her comments. She said the women were being sexualized, objectified, and the video didn’t really do anything but show a one-sided image of Muslim women. Well, yea….hence the title “Mipsterz.” Not every Muslim woman can identify with being a hipster; the women in this video clearly felt that they did. No big deal. As for being objectified? The girls were dressed in their own style willingly. No one told them what to wear. So if you felt that a girl’s pants were too tight, or her top too flashy….well, I’m sorry. That’s her style.
I actually know a few of the girls in the video, and when I watched it I felt so proud. Not only that, I felt that I could identify with them. Although I don’t consider myself a hipster, I do have my own style of hijab that has evolved over the years into something I am now comfortable with. Wearing hijab for 17 years it was always hard to balance Islam and my American identity. And when people say we don’t need to act “American” I must disagree. We live here; why shouldn’t we adapt? We can still keep our culture and religion. To me it seems like the ones that are threatened by embracing an American identity are the ones whose faith is weak. If you felt secure, you wouldn’t have an issue incorporating American culture as well.
But I digress.
Anyways, after that article came out, all hell broke loose. Facebook was filled with shares of the article, the video, and a follow-up article posted days after the initial one, titled “Somewhere in America, Muslim Women are Being Shamed.” And it was a good article too. Everything I wanted to say was said. Muslim fashion bloggers posted their opinions, as they too are always being attacked for their “incorrect” representation of Islam. To me, I felt like FINALLY, an issue that has plagued our communities has come to light. The problem with living in America in the age of social media is that everyone feels like the Big Man behind a screen. Words are hurled at fellow sisters, disguised as “advice,” but are really meant to judge and criticize openly with no repercussions. Bottom line is, no one can judge another person.
Oh, I know what people are thinking. Some girls I know even posted their thoughts on that under my status, saying things like “well, only God can judge BUT we know how she is dressed is wrong.” Um, no….we DON’T know that. Because you know what? We don’t know what is in her heart. We don’t know at what point she is in her spiritual journey. In fact, she might actually be at a higher level than you, even though you cover your hair. Yes, her neck might be showing, or the front part of her hair, or a sliver of her arm. That, however, does not give you the right to put her on blast on social networks for everyone to read. Come to think of it, that behavior doesn’t seem very Islamic to me, and yet YOU are judging HER? Give me a break.
That brings me to my last point (maybe). I am so shocked and appalled at the amount of negativity Muslim women aim at each other. No, it’s not all, but a significant enough amount that I have noticed. As I said, I follow many of the Muslim fashion bloggers on Instagram, and it just amazes me all of the negative comments I read. Again, it is so easy to hide behind a screen, and I doubt any of these women would dare to utter such hurtful comments face-to-face (at least I hope not). These negative comments are what drive our own AWAY from the religion. When a girl decides to wear the hijab, and then gets attacked on Facebook or Instagram for her style of dress, it makes her feel ashamed. I know one girl in particular who started off her fashion blog with hijab, endured many awful comments, and ended up taking off the hijab. The funny part is that once she took it off, the comments STILL remained judgmental and ugly, this time criticizing the fact that she took off the hijab.
Ok, wait. First, you don’t like the way she wears hijab, and nag her to the point she takes it off….and now that she has taken it off, you nag her even more. I don’t get it! I say leave her be, and focus on yourself. And while we all like to think we’ve achieved perfection, chances are, you haven’t. This particular blogger has since tried to wear hijab again, and of course the critics came out in droves. She has since made a statement that her wearing the hijab is a journey, and for everyone to respect her. Which I feel is admirable.It’s a personal journey that no one should feel compelled to comment on.
I titled this post “I Speak for Myself” which is both true as well as a title of a book. I received this book as a gift from a non-Muslim last year, as he saw my struggles in attaining the “right” identity. This book tells the stories of 40 Muslim American women from all backgrounds and in different professions. It talk about their journey to finding their identity and some of the struggles they faced. The common theme, however, is that all the women recognize that while they are all Muslim, their story is just that- theirs. Each story speaks to that individual woman. We are all Muslims, yes; however the thing that makes us so beautiful is our differences, and even more so, our acceptance of those difference amongst our sisters.
Link to Mipsterz video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3Nq0NzRrfE