Why I Participated in the ‘Somewhere in America’ #Mipsterz Video

By Aminah Sheikh

I went to New York, last year around May to participate in the #Mipsterz video “Somewhere in America.” I anticipated meeting some like-minded hijabis* and making new friends. I emailed my photos to Layla** and Abbas Rattani (creators of the video) like many other women. They responded to me quite quickly and invited me to join the project. I happened to be the only cool Canadian.

The shooting was long, tiring but really fun. We all got along and giggled away. All the women in the video told each other their own “hijab story.” I felt, for once, in my element — belonging and pretty. I couldn’t believe that I was selected to be a sort of model. I felt special and happy.

In the last three years, I have been really struggling with keeping my hijab on. I wore hijab for about 10 years, and it was a choice I made when I graduated from high school. There were both positive and negative implications, as I tell most people who don’t wear the hijab.

My Hijab Struggles

For me, wearing the hijab was counter culture, reactionary politics, and intertwined to my spiritual development. Hijab was my choice. I came from a family where no one really observed the Islamic head covering. Hijab gave me a place to fit in, and it served as a barrier to intrusive men. In hijab, I was often treated with great respect from non-Muslims and Muslims alike. People would open doors for me, say God bless you and smile at me. Other faith-observing people found solace in me because of our common struggles.

I made friends with a lot of Christian and Jewish women who also observed.

But over time, I had a lot of mixed feelings towards my hijab. Sometimes I loved it, and sometimes I hated it. I hated feeling like an outsider. I hated never fitting in. I hated that I was not white enough, thin enough or beautiful enough. Hijab only magnified these dysmorophic feelings while also masking my perpetual self-loathing. I could hide in all my layers easily. More than often, I would not even want to take off my hijab in front of other women. I had contempt for myself.

I don’t need to get into the sob stories and history of my marginalization, but I am sure you can understand. That is why the #Mipsterz video opportunity was so important to me. Over the years, social media and networks became a key tool to building my own community. Any time I saw on social media a like-minded hijabi, I would shoot off a friend request. Anytime I saw hijabi who kind of looked like me and dressed like me, I would befriend her. Anytime, I saw a hijabi in the media, I would post her on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Why? Simply because I could relate. I was eager for her to succeed, develop, be heard and seen. I was probably projecting my own feelings of insecurity.

To All the Critiques of “Somewhere in America”

My problem with all the critiques I am reading is that you are taking away my agency and power. I made this choice, and the video is in fact a reflection of me and many Muslim women. You may not like it, and that is ok. It may not represent you, and that is even better. You probably don’t know anyone like us – even more so better!

Let me clear some facts around the video for Sana Saaed, senior editor of Islamic Monthly, who wrote a widely-shared critique of the video:

1) Sara Aghaganian and Layla helped produce and direct this video, so it was not done entirely by men.
2) Most of the women on set created their own outfits and participated in the overall vision of the video.
3) Modesty and beauty can coexist
4) Ibtihaj Muhammad is not the only strong woman with skills in this video.
5) Fashion, design and makeup is an art and a skill.

Hijabis are humans, and that was the point of the video. I know hijabis who ride bikes, skateboard and listen to rap. You can be in denial and reinforce the ‘us and them’ dichotomies and Occidentalism. But, I personally see this as reactionary Islamist politics — this naming, shunning and shaming. It is counterproductive and not useful. Islam is a global religion with about two billion adherents and colorful, historical trajectories.

Islamic culture has not come in a vacuum. Islam is linked to a myriad of people, histories, nations and ethnicities.

The most amusing part of this post-video conversation is the class/or Marxian critique and the linking of the video to materialism and consumption. First, of all the women in the video, not one is endorsing any particular brand. Second, it certainly ironic when the majority of “Western” Muslims are living in their fancy suburban homes, driving a luxury car, jet setting through Dubai and staying in luxury hotels on their Hajj– now they want to bring class politics into the discussion.

Let’s not even get started on the race politics: I am a first generation Muslim woman living in Toronto, Canada. I have been called a terrorist post-911 more times than I can count. I am brown-skinned and by no means the normative standard of beauty. I am a daughter of parents forcefully moved during partition in India/Pakistan. Like me, none of the women in the video fit into mainstream culture. It was great giving us some representation in alternative media forms. I can only hope one day there are more Muslim women in the media when I have my own daughter.

Finally, don’t say what my identity is. I can do that for myself. Don’t take away another woman’s power or agency.

I am Canadian. I am Western. I am them, and they are me. I am definitely the same. I can be a hipster, I can be a mipster, and I can be mainstream. Oh. and yes — I listen to Jay Z.

Peace out.
Aminah Sheikh

Aminah Sheikh is a recent graduate from the School of Oriental and African Studies and York University. Her research was on faith based organizations, women and socio-economic development in Pakistan. Born and raised in Canada, she currently resides in Toronto. She volunteers with the New Democratic Party of Canada. You can connect with her on @AminahSheikh on Twitter.

* hijabi is a term used in the Muslim community for someone who wears the hijab, or the headscarf.

** last name withheld at the request of the person.

 

  • captain arabia

    Thanks for the post, sister, but I think you’re missing the point. The most offensive thing about the video are the lyrics, not the video content, per se.

    • Asoomii Jay

      and why is it offensive and why are you offended? shes not harming anyone shes doing something fun for herself. let people be if hey arent harming anyone and mind your business.

      • Jake

        We muslims say, enjoin in the good and forbid the evi.

      • Elaa

        I’m not sure if you heard the song, but Jay-Z, told women to do degrading things, talked about Miley Cyrus twerking, and used the ‘n’ word throughout. I think it’s morally healthy for us to be offended with something like that.

  • amandaquraishi

    Rock on, sister. :)

  • Zahirah

    I think this woman is totally ON point and the most powerful part of her commentary is that she asked for people not to take away her agency. It’s her right to be in this video, to listen to jay Z and to wear (or not wear) her hijab the way she likes. People need to get that in order to get this video.

    • Guest

      Obviously it’s her right. It’s also other people’s right to question whether the image being produced about hijab is meaningful, or simply reactionary and defensive (no, no, we’re not fundamentalists, we’re “cool”!). I would add that Sana and other critics of the video have made clear numerous times that critiquing the video is in no way an attack on the girls who took part or hijabis who are into fashion/beauty/whatever OR any form of hijab shaming.

      • Rin

        If it is not policing, then it is still very similar. Sana may think that her point of view is unlike the rest, but she is essentially telling the girls that their way of representing Islam was not right (she approves of Western clothing and makeup but has determined Muslims must be anti-materialist, etc.) and that they should have done X,Y, and Z according to her values and visions and operate according to her standards and essentially telling the girls that they should be everything to everyone, just as the hijab-police do when they say the girls are not representing Islam according to their view of Islam. She is adding another burden on their shoulders. Stop projecting onto these girls, guys. I hope we see more representations, and that each doesn’t face this same expectations to model the perfect dream Muslimah.

  • Knitter Scribe

    1. No one takes away “agency and power” by telling someone that the way that they are represented is a problem. The copyright infringement involved by using a song without permission is the clearest theft of agency there.
    2. “It may not represent you, and that is even better. You probably don’t know anyone like us – even more so better!” If you want to be a spechul snoflayk, you’re going to have to be more than a fashionable, upper-middle class Jay-Z fan. There’s loads of Muslims who are fashionable hip-hop fans of all classes who don’t need to advertise their spechul snoflayk status because they offer something truly interesting.

    3. Being South Asian does not mean that you are exempt from critiques about race. Anyone can be an agent of white supremacy, and as a South Asian, you have some racial privilege.
    4. Also, women can be agents of patriarchy, too. Many so-called hip hop videos have large numbers of women in them and have casts that are mostly PoC, but they are bastions of white supremacy and patriarchy. Your identity does not exempt you.
    5. Your notion that most Western Muslims are well-heeled is also a sign of privilege. You only see the Arab and South Asian immigrants, while your words gloss over the Somali refugee, the African Canadian/African American converts and children of converts, the West African immigrants who are passed over for opportunities and targeted by police for the social crime of existing in a Black body.

    You are young, relatively well-off, and while you have faced some rather nasty bigotry, you are not the only one who has, and many have it worse. You have tastes typical of those of women of your age range and social class, which is no crime. Enjoy them. But if you’re expecting to be considered unique due to your tastes or the oppression you’ve experienced, you’re going to have to work harder than being just like most young women of your class.

    • 1tsplove

      YES. YES. YES.

    • Rin

      1. People are denying her agency by saying she is only a tool exploited by X director or movement when presumably she is well aware of these forces, her desires and actions.

      2. “There are loads of…” Yes. But you would never know it from mainstream media depictions, and that is the point. There are plenty of non-Muslims who have only seen extremist depictions of Muslims and plenty of traditionalists who did indeed say that she was not only a special snowflake but a sinful one. So it is ground-breaking to certain populations, sadly.

      3. There will be more videos from other women to demonstrate other aspects of Muslim life. No need for this video to embody everything to everyone. Why do we demand that of Muslimahs?

      4. They may not want to be “unique.” They just want to represent themselves, which it seems was controversial enough. Do we say all this to all wealthy people, or is it easier to say to Muslim women -whom Muslim and nonMuslim societies have always been comfortable criticizing, and whom we seem to think we have a right to judge?

  • human001

    I understand that a hipster is a person that does not want to take part in the mainstream.
    In your blog post you claim you can be a hipster and you claim to you can be mainstream.
    I am not sure if you can be both…..Unless being a hipster is the mainstream.
    Someone help!

  • Elaa

    First off, I commend you for the very respectable tone in which you delievered your point. It really put my faith back in the awesome potential of this Ummah, that we can ACTUALLY have mature conversations without resorting to personal attacks or character assassinations (which has been all too prevalent throughout this campaign)

    With your point about Ibtihaj not being the only women in the video with a skill set. You see, that WAS the problem. I’m sure that most-if not all women in the video have some sort of awesome skillset/legacy that they’d love to contribute to society/humanity. The only problem was, this was not communicated CONSISTENTLY throughout the entire video. It didn’t show Noor exhibiting her dream of becoming a newscaster, nor did it show Marwa Atik and her beautiful collections in her fashion line. In fact, only Ibtihaj was shown doing her thing, and that contrast, in comparison to other girls doing model poses, just didn’t seem to click. It was completely random.

    The other thing that I wanted to highlight was, that you talked a lot about your choice of expressing your identity, and this video being a vehicle for you to do that. That’s great and all, but I personally think that’s a little selfish. The way in which this video was marketed and explained through various public figures online networks was that this video was a representation of Muslim women (in a very general, blanketed statement sort of way). And this is exactly why I think a lot of people originally flipped out when they saw the video. You can do your own thing if you want, but please be mature enough to realize that whether you intend to or not, some people will see this as a representation of Muslim women in general. And this is bound to tick off a lot of people. Just realize that your choices and your actions will and do affect other people.

    • Aicha Lasfar

      Couldn’t agree more with you Elaa. Hit the nail on the head, you have.

  • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

    No one is taking away your agency or power. And don’t flatter yourself; you had no agency in this situation beyond consenting to being a model. You are very much a peripheral element in all of this. We recognize this, and it is vital for you to recognize that in criticising the message we are after bigger fish.

    “4) Ibtihaj Muhammad is not the only strong woman with skills in this video.” -No doubt. So the question is, why wasn’t any of that strength or skill on display, besides hers?

    “5) Fashion, design and makeup is an art and a skill.” -Oh, that’s what you meant by skill. My apologies.

    “The most amusing part of this post-video conversation is the class/or Marxian critique and the linking of the video to materialism and consumption.” -The paragraph following this line makes it abundantly clear that you don’t know anything about classism and even less about Marxism.

    “I am Canadian. I am Western. I am them, and they are me. I am definitely the same. I can be a hipster, I can be a mipster, and I can be mainstream.” -First off,
    hipster and mainstream are mutually exclusive. Secondly, you are trying to identify with “them” but I don’t think you understand which “them” you are talking about. The issue isn’t being Canadian/Western. The “them” you are joining is the entrenched structure of privilege and patriarchy that is built on institutionalized classism and racism, supported on the backs of slaves. This is what is being criticised. Why would you ever want to be a part of such an exploitive system? By all means, be Canadian, be a Westerner. But if being Western is to you being a hipster, well guess what: plenty of non-Muslim Canadians would take issue with the message of privileged elitism in there as well, regardless of whether or not you wear the hijab.

    Some of us have no problem with reconciling our Western identity without being petite bourgeois.

    You are right about one thing: you do have agency and power and choice in the matter. Don’t try so hard to be one of them, just be yourself.

    • Behnaz

      “marxian” IS a word (just saying…)

      • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

        I stand corrected. Thankfully, I am not a Marxist.

        • ei

          “”Them” isn’t Canadian/Western, “them” is the entrenched structure of privilege and patriarchy that is built on institutionalized classism and racism”. I am not normally one to defend my own “Western culture” but if you think the “west” is the only place with entrenched patriarchy and class systems then you really don’t know much about anything. I suspect that you think you sound very clever, but really you are just name calling and making crass and ridiculous statements to smear millions of people from another “culture” you may not like.

          • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

            My point is that one can be a Westerner without propagating a message of classism and patriarchy. That she seems to equate Canadian/Westerner with being an upper middle class privileged urban hipster is what is ridiculous, and that you seem to think the same way is also disturbing. The West is more than privilege and fashion and hip hop. The conversation was never about selling out to the West, though she apparently thinks so.

            I suspect you’re not very clever, period. I clearly implied that I am a Westerner, comfortable enough with my Western identity that I don’t seek to ape the lifestyle of the privileged elite.

          • ei

            OK so you are personally attacking me again and as you did with the writer.

            Excuse me, but please can you point put where exactly I agree with the author that being “western” is about being “an upper middle class privileged urban hipster”. I never mentioned anything about what being western actually is, you chose to put words in my mouth because I called you out on a ridiculous comment you made.

            xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

          • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

            Sorry I hurt your feelings. Do you want a cookie?

          • Aicha Lasfar

            People won’t be inclined to consider your opinion, no matter how eloquent it is, if you personally bash them. Hating on someone for disagreeing with you won’t make them agree with you, period.

          • Guest

            You are correct, I overstepped my bounds.

          • SS

            No but you probably need a pillow to cry on. Because the world isn’t unicorns and butterflies as you wanted.

          • BurpingDerp

            At the end of the day, your dumbass is not living up to the standards of Islam held by some imam in the middle east. So don’t try to judge others. Let her live her life. You live your life. How she acts or dresses is of no concern to you. So unless you are a perfect Muslim in every sense of the way and that your behavior pleases every muslim scholar, then you are no body to judge her actions. Worry about perfecting your behavior and let Allah take care of others.

          • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

            Except that her faith and and how she acts and dresses has nothing to do with what I said. I and many others criticised the classist message the video represented as well as it’s objectification of women. The same analysis would have given regardless of whether they were hijabis or even Muslims.

            For her to simply sweep that all aside and claim that we are engaging in “reactionary Islamist politics” and “shaming” is simple-minded and a cop out, and it is incredibly insulting to some of the more thought-out and nuanced critiques.

          • Rin

            How is this objectifying? The women not only had control of the video but it was not reductive or focused on any part of them -unless you consider clothing or fashion as the part. Which was the point of the video. These girls are interested in fashion. If you have a problem with the industry, I wonder why you don’t leave comments on H&M commercials? Do you think you own these women or expect them to embody *your* ideals? They can only speak for themselves.

          • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

            I do actually leave such comments, and I frequently pontificate on my page and in various discussions/seminars/forums both on the web and in the real world. As a radical leftist I am quite involved in class politics and feminism.

            I will quote from a recent post I made, to further my point:

            “My final thoughts on #mipsterz:

            The video itself is not a huge deal. The better critiques are more intellectual exercises than anything else. What is concerning however is the backlash against those critiques. The immediate jump to play the blibbering out-of-touch Islamist card is not a new issue, but it is going to be a major problem in the future as it becomes used with greater frequency.

            The most nuanced critiques say nothing about the issue of modesty and nothing about the girls’ iman; what is discussed for the most part is the message portrayed by the video as a whole. It is incredibly insulting to characterize such critiques as mere ranting of “haters”, or to dismiss them offhand as expressions of self-righteous moral judgment.

            Save for Ibtihaj, everyone was POSING. Ibtihaj was the only one DOING. This is objectification plain and simple (a bit oversimplified, I know). They could have been in the nude or they could have worn niqabs; it would still be objectification. Nor does it matter what the girls are or do in real life, because it is the portrayal we are concerned with.

            The dismissal of the privilege analyses is especially worrisome, because guess who’s dismissing? That’s right, those with privilege. We have a crisis looming in the American Muslim narrative, and it is one of a serious disconnect between those with privilege who set the agenda for the community, and those without. It comes with a serious question we need to ponder: how does the working class, unprivileged Muslim look at his privileged counterpart and see brotherhood when that privileged individual is unwilling to even acknowledge said privilege? Privilege always comes at the expense of someone’s rights, and the least that can be done is to check it. But we seem to be failing even that.

            The most interesting part of this? The people critiquing the video and those responding to the critiques are for the most part Westernized, second or third generation Muslims who have probably had to struggle with identity as much as these girls. And yet one group is being criticised for allegedly being unable to tolerate the idea of a Western Muslim. See the issue here? One group is upholding it’s definition of what a Western Muslim is over the other, and big surprise: it’s the privileged definition. That reaction says far more about the video than a thousand videos like it ever could.”

          • Rin

            Well, you may have a point with the “doing vs. posing” argument, although there was some skateboarding, lol. However, I have to disagree that everyone critiquing the critiques is upholding any image of Islam over another. No one has been saying you shouldn’t wear abaya, if you wish, or shalwar, or whatever floats your boat. By and large, it is the articles that are critiquing the women in the video for failing to uphold *their* ideal of Islam, whether that’s anti-classism, etc. These girls are and should be free to wear what they want, but where is the line between cultural criticism and undue social pressure? Although I don’t want to see our community become superficial either, I think Muslim girls already face a lot of pressure that prevents them even making videos like this…

          • Muhammad Asaad Loutfi

            Where do we draw the line? I can’t answer that. I am a rad leftist and considered to be an extremist by the mainstream community. I don’t see a line; rightly or wrongly from where I stand privilege is an enemy to be fought at all costs, and we are in the middle of a class war. Understandably you probably disagree and will write me off as a crazy.

            Unfortunately, when I asked the question, “how does the working class, unprivileged Muslim look at his privileged counterpart and see brotherhood?” it was most of all for myself, because after years as an activist I no longer see the brotherhood with my fellow privileged religionists. Though I am not the only one who shares this sentiment.

            When the girls and those defending them turned the conversation to a discussion about whether one could both be a Westerner AND a Muslim (which the convo was never about), they were basically defining Westerner by this lifestyle/protrayal of theirs. Clearly they don’t see wearing the abaya or wearing plain clothing as Western, if they think that this is an attack on identity. Thus, they are upholding their definition of Westerner while denying others’ interpretations.

          • Rin

            I think it’s male privilege to be able to -in the name of class war- write off these women altogether and choose to ignore that they face unique pressures and suppression the more that their personalities become visible -people accept her now, but women like the fencer in the video were also judged unIslamic at one point- particularly hijabis because they’re expected to embody the religion for whatever reason but also any Muslim women who “shame” their culture or religion (allegedly).

            As for the women who didn’t include abaya-wearing Muslims as Westerners, I really can’t speak to that, as I haven’t seen that. I haven’t seen much defense of the video. It’s the critics that are the loudest and sore-thumbish. I think the rest of us have moved past lambasting and critiquing every aspect of a woman, much less a Muslim woman already facing Allah-knows-what.

          • Rin

            Hipster isn’t necessarily privileged elite, and you are not only making a lot of judgments but you sound silly holding up your mode of dress as superior or The Right Way. What the heck do you wear that is so sanctified? If you’re not supporting a “patriarchal, elitist” industry, then I hope you’re wearing strictly thobes? No? Oh, it’s okay for you to wear khakis and polos, you just ask this girl to stand out like a sore thumb and take the arrows for you. Oh and, FYI, the patriarchy is global and considerably worse in other instances of life and industry, e.g. encouraging abused women to return to their husbands. THAT’S a serious issue, not the mess you’re making out of this girl’s shoes. Why don’t you write an article about real patriarchy instead of poking fun at this girl for doing what is only natural, as opposed to living an isolated life at constant tension with American mores (which seems to be what others would want her to do and insist is the Right Way)? Yeah, you could argue, why give into that pressure? Not everyone wants to live as a torch or symbol. Represent yourself if you know better. Easy to fling mud when you’re not in the limelight.

          • Guest

            “Hipster” is derogatory slang for a culturally appropriating privileged subculture. I do not know if Mipsters is intended to be sarcastic but my guess is not. There is a large body of academic study devoted to studying and defining what a hipster is because it is a very interesting aspect of pop culture.

            You misunderstand the direction of my critisicm. I am not concerned with how much she is covering or how modest her clothing is, I am critisizing the message of privilege and objectification. If she would like to be a member of the privileged class then by all means, she is free to do so; but she should expect that those of us who fight classism and inequality and poverty will have something to say about it. In fact, I am extremely surprised at this response because theological points never occurred to me. Just because Muslims are involved doesn’t mean the discussion must always be in the context of Islam. There are quite a few non-practicing Muslims out there who do work in social justice.

            Perhaps I was a bit harsh…but I was very annoyed at the time. I am by no means working class, but I was incredibly stung by her remark that Western Muslims are all mansion-dwelling globe trotters. Such comments win her no favours from working class/activist Muslims.

    • human001

      Let’s try and keep our critiques so that we are not attacking the person.

    • Guest

      The only thing that kept me from upvoting this comment was because it was kind of rude. Apart from that, I agree with 99.9 of it.

    • Kimberley

      Wow, if this is how you treat your sisters I’d hate to see how you treat your enemies.

  • uzi

    You go girl. :)

  • Nasiba

    “Hijabis are humans, and that was the point of
    the video.” So unless I am a hijabi who conforms to
    western ideals of fashion and pop culture, I am not a human? I cannot wear an
    abaya and teach a class of kindergarteners and expect to be seen as human? I
    have a problem with this because it is implying that the only way to be seen as
    “human” as a hijabi is if I conform to western ideal of fashion like these
    women did. This is really oppressive to Hijabi Muslim women in the West, unless
    they dress like the women in the video.

    • disqus_c3x74A7i2q

      She never said that. Hijabis are human just means that hijabis are diverse and dress differently from each other, from Abayya to jeans. Also, the women in this video are all dressed differently so im not even sure what you mean. Are you just upset they dont dress like you? Yeah, thats not judgmental at all.

    • SS

      please stop being so sensitive and biased. She said Hijabis are humans to all those saying WHY IS A HIJABI DRESSED THE WAY SHE IS AND WHY IS SHE TRYING TO BE A WESTERN PERSON. Its because they grew up in the West darling. And her statement to all those getting offended by her choice of dressing up. She’s not saying anything to the way you dress up, right? So don’t be bothered by hers.

  • Ibni Adam

    Blaming Islamism. I’ve heard it ALL now. LMAO.

    • Rin

      Hm, you are right, maybe she should be blaming the average judgmental, frowning Muslim man usurping Allah’s place as the ultimate authority and wisdom. :)

      • Ibni Adam

        Because that is what I’m doing. Take your judgement and frowning female self to hypocrisy 101, you’ll fit right in.

        • SS

          I guess you have already received a PHD in hypocrisy already. Congratulations.

  • Saima

    As a Muslim woman who does not cover her hair but believes herself to be upholding the Islamic principles of modesty, I feel like these kind of discourses privilege a certain type of Muslim woman to the exclusion of others. I really have to take issue and deconstruct the notion of a ‘hijabi’ if the feeling of a camaraderie with those who veil only comes at shaming and ignoring other Muslim women. I know you are not intentionally shaming and you seem to possess a sincerely good and pious heart but when you conflate hijab with haya (modesty), you do make an inherent value-judgment against those Muslim sisters who do not choose to participate or believe in the hijab as being lesser in haya and piety.

    I’ve seen too many Muslim women make hijab synonymous with Islam, resulting in a over-glorification of veiling. I know you simply want to find a community of ‘hijabi’ sisters to relate and share hijab struggles to, but in doing so, you marginalize and invalidate those Muslim sisters who you do not perceive as like you on appearances alone.

    Instead of creating distinctions of hijabi versus non-hijabi, let us all just embrace each other as sisters in Islam.

    • Rin

      I agree and also want to point out that non-hijabis also set up these dichotomies, pedestals, and glorify the veil while at the same time judging hijabis more harshly and expecting them to exemplify Islam above everyone- which isn’t fair. So we all need to move forward together and make changes in our thinking.

  • Guest

    ”But, I personally see this as reactionary Islamist politics — this naming, shunning and shaming.” I think that’s where you lost us all; with that you’ve shown that you have very little understanding on the matter. Islamists? really? Poor child. You’ve also shown that you have very little understanding on the issue and clearly do not understand what people are really upset about. Reading this post; I honestly cannot help but feel sorry for you; it’s truly pitiful to see someone with such low self-esteem. However; your arrogant attitude doesn’t help your cause very much; beneath that ‘Oh and yes, I listen to Jay-z’ lies insecurity; fear and anger.

    Love of self doesn’t come with removing your hijab, being a mipster or whatever; the problem is within you and until you realize that and fix it you’ll always try and be something you’re not. Mipsterism is a disease; not a remedy. I truly hope you grow to love yourself someday and also take responsibility for your own actions instead of calling critiques ‘Islamists’. What you do day to day; no one cares. But when you make a choice to go viral then its fair game. It seems to me; you wanted to be in that video to boost your self esteem and gain some sort of popularity and notoriety… but sh!t always backfires, doesn’t it? Be mature and understand that not all critiques are haters; we wont all sit back and applaud to feed your insecure ego. In any case, I hope you find what you’re looking for!

    • human001

      Construct your criticism so that you are not attacking her.

  • Guest

    ”But, I personally see this as reactionary Islamist politics — this naming, shunning and shaming.” I think that’s where you lost us all; with that you’ve shown that you have very little understanding on the matter. Islamists? really? You’ve also shown that you have very little understanding on the issue and clearly do not understand what people are really upset about. Your arrogant attitude doesn’t help your cause very much; beneath that ‘Oh and yes, I listen to Jay-z’ lies insecurity; fear and anger.

    Love of self doesn’t come with removing your hijab, being a mipster or whatever; the problem is within you and until you realize that and fix it you’ll always try and be something you’re not. Mipsterism is a disease; not a remedy. I truly hope you grow to love yourself someday and also take responsibility for your own actions instead of calling critiques ‘Islamists’. What you do day to day; no one cares. But when you make a choice to go viral then its fair game. It seems to me; you wanted to be in that video to boost your self esteem and gain some sort of popularity and notoriety… but sh!t always backfires, doesn’t it? Be mature and understand that not all critiques are haters; we wont all sit back and applaud to feed your insecure ego. In any case, I hope you find what you’re looking for!

    • Kimberley

      ‘The problem is within you’ – and you know that after reading ONE article? Sort out the problem within yourself Mr Judgemental! She’s fair game? What a nice way to talk about your sister. Insult her, insult us all.

    • SS

      AHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

      I hope you find what I believe we all think you should be looking for. Perhaps a brain would do? Love of SELF doesn’t come with having a hijab on and being judgemental and bitchy either ;) I think whatever you told her, the things you think are wrong with her, are actually wrong with YOU. Projection my love, Projection.

  • disqus_c3x74A7i2q

    I am so sorry you have to read so many of these comments as it is full anger and judgement. I related to this video and I relate to this article. I am also a muslim female who wears hijab and lives in NYC. I’ve had a variety of emotions about my hijab and definitely tend to feel like i don’t “fit in” with the Muslim community. If anything, seeing the comments/blogs to this video and to this article actually makes me understand why I’ve never felt embedded in the community. As a non-hijabi who wore shorter skirts when i was 18 yrs old, i was not religious enough and was once told to sit in the back of the room at a lecture once . Then i put on hijab and so many assumptions were made about why i put it on. (Most popular was that I did it for a guy). And now as I tend to wear my hijab a little differently and dress differently (similarly to those in the video), I am told that I am giving hijabis a bad name. Just know that I think it is great that you were in this video and I think its great that you wrote this article. I think for those who stand on pedestals and look down on other Muslims, please look for excuses to accept and love other Muslims instead of jumping on the opportunity to criticize. It is truly a shame to see the attacks on these females for such a video. (And maybe less importantly, Jay Z’s song is about racism in America, it’s not about twerking. )

    • SS

      Its great, first muslims people judge non muslims, than hijabis judge the non hijabis, and then hijabis judge hijabis. All in All I think we have all lost it and are playing the power struggle here. Who is Better than WHO. I guess we will all die trying to prove the other ones are crappier than us. I loved your response.

  • Rin

    Thank you for this, Amina! Keep expressing yourself.

  • eliquinn

    As a parent of teenage hijabis who lives in NYC I thought the video was a great idea, my daughter dresses similar to some of the girls in the video. I love the modest dressed with the unique flare. I myself rarely wear abayas, I prefer long skirts and blouses. What I disliked about it was the tights and stilettos, that really defeats the purpose of hijab. The song of choice was distastful, more skills should have been shown. IMO
    *on another note*

    What we must remember no matter what we do is that we are Muslim above everything else, we have guide lines in the Quaran ,which we tend to make hard on ourselves, Allah is not ok with everything just as long as we say La ilaha ila la, Now a days you can’t tell muslims anything without their feelings being hurt. Yes your religion is between you and Allah but we are here to help each other try to get to jennah, so if I am not a perfect muslim and I tell you sister/brother what you are doing is wrong, it could be that you stop that sin and go to jennah and maybe I won’t or maybe I will because I help you Alahualim. All that to say that when dressing, posting or carrying on with your daily lives always ask yourself “will this please Allah?”

  • siraaj

    May Allah (swt) ease your struggles. Holding tight to one’s islamic identity is no easy task when the invitations are everywhere to let it go and go with the flow, so to speak.

    One of my own du’aas is that I ask Allah (swt) to make me what He wants me to be, irrespective of who likes it or where that takes me, and to make me strong enough to handle it if I’m not.

    I’ve found it beneficial as it leaves me in the position of seeking knowledge and attempting to practice with the expectation that Allah (swt) will guide my decisions since I’m sincere in my heart about it and I’m taking action by seeking.

    I share it with you and hope you find it beneficial as well, insha’Allah.

    Siraaj

  • Amirah Bashir

    mA you go, Glenn Coco!

  • Mansoor Sakhiy

    I see your photo without a Hijab, not sure if I get your point; I do think it’s a good idea for you to take your hijab off when you want to confirm to western fashion of tight pants and half covered hair… Don’t use the hijab as fashion Accessory. You are very plan looking without it.

    • Elaa

      Oh come on bro, that’s super disrespectful. She has her personal struggles, and for you to be so heartless and judge her without knowing what she’s been through, isn’t cool or Islamic AT ALL. I wish that more people would stop seeing this whole mipsterz thing as a debate, but more so as a discussion. We’re all on the same side people! And it’s our responsibility to lift each other up, not point out each other’s shortcomings, just to make a ‘point’.

    • SS

      You need to read the article before posting your thoughtless comment. She said she struggled with it, and wasn’t sure if she wanted to wear it, and that she “WORE” it for 10 years. If you know your english, that would be in the past. And hijabi or not, that girl is beautiful. She also happens to have a brain and stands up for herself. And she is not scared to show her picture unlike you. And whether she was wearing a hijab or not, making a point or not, there are many women out there hijabis and non hijabis who agree with her and have voiced their opinion in their favour.

    • Ahmed

      YOU are what is wrong with the Muslim ummah. Do you really think the author cares how physically attractive you find her? Do you like to comment on the photos of all writers, or just the women? Creepy and disgusting….

    • Surprise123

      “Don’t use the hijab as fashion Accessory. You are very plan looking without it.” Ignoring the intentional cruelty of that statement, YOU are part of the reason women seek to be attractive: for you, women’s worth lies only in her outward appearance.

  • MipsterUnite

    Somewhereinamerica #MIPSTERZ (RAP RESPONSE) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4f-NAMvX04

  • Ahmed

    If you read the Noor hasan article you linked to, you would know that the majority of western Muslims are not living in suburban homes and jet-setting to Dubai, as you claim. Class politics have been on the agenda of many Muslim activists for quite some time now. And your video clearly speaks to a class of women who have the time and money to spend on a luxury like fashion. It was a fair critique, even if you seem not to care about the issue. It seems as if you are mocking Noor hasan for using a social justice lens to critique a media portrayal.

    • SS

      so? these same muslims also watch tv shows their ethnic or western shows that depict class differences, so what? if you dont have the money, don’t buy things. If you have the money than no one can stop you from buying things you want. Its called prioritization.

      • Ahmed

        wow. I hope you realize in retrospect how condescending your comment sounds. No one is asking for your assistance in prioritizing their budget.
        It seems you are unaware that there is a large body of academic study of the media that analyzes the way certain marginalized groups are portrayed in popular media–minorities, women, etc. Class issues are part of that analysis. It is important, from a social justice perspective, that our arts and media represent who we are as a society and who we want to be.
        Ms. Hasan was just pointing out that while it purported to improve representation of Muslim women in the media, it really only focused on a small segment of economically privileged Muslim women, to the exclusion of the less wealthy majority. It was a fair critique, not a personal attack on anyone in the video.
        And like I said, maybe the makers of this video don’t care about that issue. They are free to make videos about whatever they want. But–If you are going to complain about your own feeling of being marginalized as a result of your religious CHOICE, as this author does, it is inappropriate to simultaneously mock the marginalization felt by others who watch your video.

        • SS

          And perhaps your comments are condescending to a group of people as well. What is this argument about? please don’t make videos and ads and commercials where people are well dressed because some groups regardless of ethnicity or religions may not be able to afford the products? That’s the most stupidest argument ever. There are class differences in society, yes there are no one is denying it. But that doesn’t mean social media and companies will not show case their products. I am sure people didn’t watch this video exclusively, they are bombarded daily with MANY MANY more visual messages with products and items they cannot afford. And what makes you think that the clothes that the girls are wearing are something no one afford? Where did you get that assumption from? I am not sure why this video is even considered to be “expensive” and marginalizing anyone. These girls are walking around in normal clothes, perhaps more well put together than most people. I just don’t understand why people cry over every single thing. Doesn’t matter if you admit it or not, most of these people are complaining about the girls wearing fitted clothes, being loud, jumping around, and having fun. Because women are animals and they can’t do that, and it is just so wrong for them. And on top of that they are “muslim” women. Everyone is trying to attack them and now they are coming up with excuses that don;t make any sense. When you can all stop watching ads, and videos and read internet stuff that showcases items that one cannot afford, than come out and complain.

          • Ahmed

            ok. Let’s start over here. I never complained that anyone’s clothing was fitted or that Muslim women aren’t allowed to have fun. Noor Hasan didn’t either. Others did, and their comments were somewhat offensive, but that’s irrelevant to what I was saying.

            If you produce something for the public, others are allowed to offer their criticism of the content, if they choose. Every actor, musician, writer, out there has received criticism of their work; that’s how ppl learn and develop. You can disagree or agree with criticism, but don’t expect the world to be your cheerleading squad.

            I don’t think anyone would disagree that large parts of the fashion and advertising industries sell unhealthy body Images and materialism to the public. Like I said, many activists have been studying and fighting this for years. If you’re interested, I can send you some articles. So why is it any different if the Mipsterz has been the subject of similar analysis? Just b/c other ppl are doing it doesn’t make it OK for “Mipsterz” to do it too.

            If you or Aminah Sheikh disagree with the Noor Hasan article, say so and explain why. Or ignore it if you don’t care. But to say it was “amusing” or stupid, when she cited facts and statistics that politely explain her point, sounds like you just can’t handle any constructive criticism at all.

            Did you actually read the Noor Hasan article? She doesn’t say any of the things you claim. What she says is that the video adds to the normalization of a particular lifestyle that in reality is accessible to very few. You don’t feel marginalized by the video, but perhaps other women do. Why not stop and actually listen to what they are saying about this? What is “normal clothing” to you may not be normal to others. Aminah Sheikh is clearly out of touch with how most Western Muslims live, since she thinks we all live in the suburbs, drive luxury cars, and vacation in Dubai. Just like she felt marginalized by a Western media that excluded ppl that looked like her, so other Muslim women are also allowed to feel marginalized by Muslim media outlets that do not include women that look like them–for example, women who are working class, rural, recent immigrants, whatever.

            So what’s wrong with ppl coming out and saying how they feel? Obviously one video can’t please everyone; some criticism should have been expected, and engaged, not dismissed or mocked.

          • SS

            Ahmed, you are right and i didn’t disagree with the fact that there are different social classes in the whole world. They coexist. The problem I have is with the assumption that these girls have something that others cannot have? Are they wearing anything branded? supporting a certain brand that no one can afford to have? No. They aren’t. I can find three different colors in my wardrobe and put it together. And I would look something like the girls in the video. I am just not sure where the assumption is rising from, and there are girls of all colors, sizes and shapes in the video. If anything, it did a great job of putting all of them together and connecting them with the colorful clothing and fun activities to break down any social barriers (skin colors, body types, and probably socio-economic status). This video is actually perfect.

          • Ahmed

            I can’t really weigh in on whether the clothing is actually expensive or designer or not (too shopping-deprived to have a real opinion). But I think we can agree that the definition of “expensive” varies greatly from person to person.
            The background song does describe extravagant wealth. And the action in the video portrays kind of a glommed up lifestyle, where women apparently have enough time on their hands to get really dressed up and travel around nice parts of the city, just to hang out, socialize, and do nothing. I know that’s kind of standard imagery for a fashion shoot, but it does kind of raise a class issue, since most ppl do not really live that lifestyle. (Probably in real life, even the models don’t!) It’s why I thought Sana Saeed’s idea of showing the models doing the work they do, while wearing their trendy outfits, would have been a nice option, for example.
            The video makers have clearly made an effort to present diverse ethnicities and realistic body images as well, and I thought that was really good. It doesn’t really show a lot of social group diversity, in my opinion, but one video can’t cover everyone, obviously.

            The real reason for my comment was this:
            I don’t 100% agree with Noor Hasan, but I think she raised some legitimate concerns/perspectives worth thinking about–for self-reflection and maybe for planning future projects. She presented statistics about how more than half of the Muslim community here is middle- or low-income, and cited scholarly articles about how promoting materialistic lifestyles to low-income youth can be harmful to them.
            In response, Aminah Sheikh basically laughs it off and says of course class isn’t a real issue b/c all Western Muslims live in the suburbs and drive luxury cars—weirdly implying that those low-income Muslims don’t actually exist! THAT comment and attitude was definitely marginalizing, even if the original video wasn’t. And I admit, it TOTALLY rubbed me the wrong way, more than any tight pants or high heels ever could.

            Anyway, thanks so much for your patience in responding to me. I really appreciate it :)

          • SS

            =) I am happy to know that both of us came out with a positive ending. There is always a give and take in any video or commercial and every experience and event that we live or get to observe in life. Your points are valid. See when we get attacked or our ideas do, our knives come out. Noor gave her thoughts and expertise to the video, Amina Sheikh who actually si in the video, felt personally attacked and marginalized. And I guess more than Noor’s comments or analysis it was the continuous outrageous comments from a majority of people, especially women who raised the self defence walls up for these girls and those who stood by them. When we look at something and feel unable to relate, we feel marginalized, I think we need to put ourselves in these girls shoes, these kind of girls do exist, who have the spare time to dress up, or hang out or do whatever, or dress up and go to work and perhaps do all these activities during their spare time. We cannot deny it, and when most people deny their existence, or deny an alternative of what they believe people should be or behave like, they lash out. We all feel marginalized in one way or the other, that is why it is important to see whether our own judgements or comments will put someone else in the same risk. Of being, unheard, or being insensitive about. Amina was clearly hurt, and you can feel it the way she wrote the article, she is definitely very emotional about it. I believe we can find it in our hearts to forgive her? she was attacked for her personal sense of style and being. And when things get personal, they usually become ugly =). Well thank you for the discussion, I agree with the things you have said, and you have said them in a nice way, being less offensive.I believe this is where we should wrap this topic up, =) Thank You for all the feedback

  • Yusra Gomaa

    Thanks for sharing. I consider myself really lucky for not having some of these more difficult struggles while wearing hijab because i know many muslim women share the same exact sentiment. These struggles are pretty normal (outside certain community-bubbles) and a positive video like this could be reassuring and refreshing for many. Aside from that, the video is just art–and shows some creative, positive energy. You don’t have to like the art, but don’t get up on your holier-than-thou throne just because you don’t like it. The personal attacks, berating, judging, and disgust expressed towards the specific women in this video is horrible. Who gave you more ownership over this religion than the next person? And most of us have no idea who each of those women are. Apparently they enjoy being positive (how horrible!). As I read once, God Himself doesn’t propose to judge man until the end of his life.. so what on earth are you doing? What did you gain? The constant bashing on facebook made my newsfeed explode, and made at least 5 other people you know remember why they took off their hijab a year ago. Give this a break please. Let’s discuss the freezing homeless man sleeping 3 miles away from you. Or the elderly neighbor you never smiled at before she passed. Or the hundreds of abused children in your 50-mile radius. Or the fact there’s another holocaust in Syria in the year 2013. Let’s have heated-blow-up-everyone’s-newsfeed-discussions about that!

  • Syed Shoaib

    I am really glad to have read this post. Peace be to everyone here. I loved reading Sana Saeed and loved reading Amina Sheikh. Both are calls for agency intertwined in/with personal struggles to find truth and a meaningful place in society.
    The path of Islam is not essentially a path towards something externally good, some established norm or form of being; but its essential achievement lies in the struggle to be one with the Creator. But the latter is not easy nor does it preclude a disconnection from the society, but on the contrary often forces one to have a contributing & meaningful place therein. People young and old try to do it in multiple ways (and am not belittling the hitherto epistemic systems on Islamic ethical life by making an easy statement, but rather honouring the same and that in reality these ethical ideals coexist in nexus with contemporary social conditions and norms). It is well understood that no Muslim is just a Muslim; as a social being he/she performs many social roles and influenced by ethical/political/cultural performances of innumerably plural identities in a complex social setting – peace activists, school teachers, writers, designers, artists, politicians and even hipsters. Even to say that ‘being a hipster and westerner are mutually exclusive’ is a load of politically correct nonsense with no pragmatic value. More that often performances of identities exist across such boundaries that define them. In our vastly interconnected social lives everyone performs multiple social roles, is influenced by multiple ideas and identities, sins, struggles, intends to be righteous and deserves empathy and compassion (even if with critique). But not only that…
    I think both Sana’s and Amina’s pieces offer us a window to reflect. About how we might want to think of Islam and Muslims in a vastly plural society, how we might value their (and our) struggles and epistemic growth – and the place sincerity, perseveration and genuine scholarship have in these (to contribute).

  • crescent5

    The video bothered me on multiple levels. The song with the n-word in it was offensive to me as a black Muslim. The other feeling I got in the pit of my stomach, was confirmed by reading this post. It was the idea that this is the definition of what “beauty” is, what “western” is. Beauty should come from one’s own self-esteem and confidence. Here, the confidence is coming from the high heels, the cool moves, and the beauty is coming from tight jeans. The message is that Muslimah hijabis who don’t dress like this, who maybe prefer the abaya, or even the niqab are neither cool, beautiful, nor western. While the stars of the video feel as if they are being judged, the video itself is a judgment against those girls and women who don’t conform to this particular mindset. They act as if they are the first ones to prove that “modesty and beauty can coexist” when women in this community do it every day.

  • Surprise123

    Non-Muslim woman here. Thank you for your video. It made me feel closer to women who wear the hijab, and reminded me of my own youth when I skateboarded in freedom through my neighborhood.
    About the make-up – it represents something all human beings have to negotiate for themselves: the eternal feminine. Do we reject, try to ignore, or tap into the eternal feminine, an immensely powerful phenomena that attracts and influences others (particularly males), but carries the great risk of limiting who we are to physical appearance only? Great physical beauty can not only be intoxicating to those who view it, but to those who exhibit it as well. And, it IS temporary, usually lasting no longer than age 35. If one’s identity is too closely tied to being attractive, what happens when great beauty dies? Also, focusing on, amplifying one’s own beauty often stifles our ability to become greater than just our physical appearance, to be motivated by the desire to improve our mind and /or character.
    I don’t mean to say that the risk to character and mind of dipping into and wielding the eternal feminine is absolute: there have been some women who have been able to wield great beauty, and not allow it to completely define who they are. Heddy Lamaar, the actress once proclaimed the most beautiful woman in Europe, was also a great inventor. Kathryn Hepburn, another beautiful actress, was able to consciously create a new public persona for women: confident, pants -wearing, brainy, but attractive.
    But, I suspect that Lamaar and Hepburn, women who combined great beauty with great strength of will and mind, are unusual. Think of the hundreds of other actresses, who sought to make their fortune through their beauty, but whose lives ended in ruin.
    Anyway, again, thanks again for being brave, and exposing us non-Muslims out here to images of skateboarding, sports-loving, laughing free Muslim North American women. And, good luck in negotiating your own relationship to the eternal feminine: may it NEVER completely define and control you.


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