November 20, 2015


Saba Ahmed, the founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, appeared on Fox News in an American flag hijab. See the BBC news article here (as I refuse to link to anything going to Fox News) and if you want to buy her hijab, Forbes has let us know it is ten dollars and can be bought in Times Square (more here, in Mic)

The sad events in Paris last week have led to a series of Islamophobic hate crimes elsewhere.  In the Toronto area, a woman in hijab was beaten and robbed, a couple in Scotland were mobbed as they closed up their shop in Edinburgh, another group of women on public transit in Toronto were accosted,  among other crimes (I could make a friday links just on stuff that has happened in Canada, unfortunately).
A customer in hijab was denied entry into a Zara store in France.  As a reminder, the various French laws on head coverings only apply to public buildings and schools.
In Switzerland, the man behind the anti minaret referendum of 2009, Oskar Freysinger, has announced he is running for one of Switzerland’s seven executive seats, the Federal Council, following the resignation of Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf after her party’s major losses in the recent parlimentary elections. Luckily for the rest of us (okay, me), linguistic tensions (article in French here) may mean that his candidacy is a Donald Trump-like front to get a Swiss German in there instead.
Bill Maher is crapping on Islam and Muslims as he is wont to do, and a piece in Salon by Sonia Saraiya calls him out on it, sort of (as an aside, of COURSE Asra Nomani was on his show…OF COURSE *headdesk*).
[Article in French] French politician, Marine le Pen, was caught live on radio in a series of contradictions during her efforts to recuperate what she could from the attacks in Paris, notably by accusing Justice Minister Christiane Taubira of saying that “one must understand why young kids run off to Syria,” which of course, she did not say. And of course, when she got called out, she promptly left the studio.
Closing a chapter on the Harper era, Justin Trudeau’s government has chosen not to appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court regarding the case of nib during a citizenship oath. It is still the honeymoon period, and I got my eye on you, Jay-Quellin.
Spreading like a cancer and even though there are so many other useful things politicians could be doing with our time and tax money, now it is Luxembourg’s turn to start thinking about a niqab ban (article in French).
With the ongoing debate in the US where several US governors air their refusal at accepting refugees from Syria, the Washington Post has an article about “That time the United States happily airlifted thousands of Muslim refugees out of Europe.
Meanwhile, the Boston Globe, among other sources, points out that posing as a refugee is not exactly the most efficient way to get in the US.
October 6, 2015

Hajar (centre) surrounded by friends at her school. Source

Hijab-shaming is a favourite activity for some Muslims, both on-and offline. In fact, just last month I attended a religious class where the teacher spent a good half hour doing just that (I had to stop going for my mental health).

While meeting up with a girlfriend last week, she regaled me with the details of a religious class where the female teacher showed examples of “improper hijab” from a selection of hijabi Instagram users – young women who were obviously oblivious to the use of their photos for such educational purposes.

Social media gives a degree of anonymous bravado that makes it easier than ever to degrade and shame Muslim women for not wearing the hijab – the sixth pillar of Islam. (Oh wait, it isn’t? Funny, it sometimes does seem like it is…)

Last week, Bank Negara Malaysia (the central bank, or BNM) awarded a handful of prestigious scholarships to underprivileged students from around the country. 18-year-old Nur Hajar Asyiqin Abdul Zubir was one of the four to receive the award, after several rigorous rounds of assessment.

Currently studying for her ‘A’ Levels in Negeri Sembilan state, she dreams of studying chemistry at Oxford University in the UK – a “golden opportunity” that this scholarship will be able to fund without worrying her parents, who work as meat suppliers. The youngest of five children in the family, Hajar had scored 9 A+s in her secondary school examinations last year and learned about the scholarship through a motivational programme for underprivileged students in the country.


Malaysia is a multiethnic country, where the indigenous Malays form the majority alongside Chinese and Indian minorities. Instead of pride in her excellent academic results, several Malay men on Facebook chose to criticise the fact that Hajar does not wear a tudung, or hijab.

One man said it was a “pity the aurat is not covered” and that “her father bears the sins”. Another man similarly qualified his congratulatory message with a snarky proclamation that “Allah hates His servants who do not cover” and dismissed the role of Hajar’s own intellectual efforts with the remark “we succeed not because we are clever”. Yet another man even suggested that the hijab should be a requirement for a scholarship awarded for academic excellence.

While one website described this online activity as “chiding”, I disagree: shaming is more accurate. It’s easy to shame Hajar because she is a young girl from a poor family, with no social standing. But it looks like women with a higher status in society are still not exempt. Case in point: a princess from another Malaysian state.

Tunku Tun Aminah. Source

Tunku Tun Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah was recently the target of negative comments on photos posted on Instagram by herself and her brother, Tunku Idris, which shows her without a tudung – her habitual look.

The only daughter among the six children of the Johor sultan and his wife, the fashionable 28-year-old still keeps an Instagram “fashion diary” (@ttaootd), which is heavily monitored for negative comments.

While her brother claims that Tunku Aminah had shut down her Instagram account much earlier and for reasons unrelated to the comments on her lack of hijab, he admits that such comments do “tick [him] off.”

He defends his sister by posting several photos and comments on his account on not being judgemental of how others look. He even vouched for what he knows of his sister’s spirituality, like praying and covering her hair at religious events: “Is that not good enough? Isn’t it between her and Allah?”

It’s such a simple – almost rhetorical – question, yet it is one that is difficult for many of us to answer. These people are shaming Hajar and Tunku for not fitting into their narrow ideas of what it means to be an ideal (Malay) Muslim woman. While deriding others is an attempt of the actor to give himself moral or psychological power, it only reveals his own internal crisis of masculinity.

June 17, 2015


Women’s athletic wear has become a billion dollar business. Designers and sportswear companies such as Adidas and Under Armour have designers catering to the needs and fashion preferences of women, from working out in style to walking about in comfortable prêt-à-porter items.

But recently a new category of sportswear has unveiled itself and is racing up into the mainstream sportswear industry: sports hijabs. Active muslimahs have definitely made an impact and businesses are listening.

When I started wearing hijab many years ago, I was in the midst of the summer football season. I had a full kit and equipment. My hijab was the most integral piece of my outfit- and still missing.



March 9, 2015


The issue of stereotyping Muslims has been controversial throughout Hollywood’s history, and looking at American films and TV in general, we can see that Muslim men (usually represented as dark skinned, bearded, and speaking broken English) have almost invariably placed the “bad people category.” Nick Recktenwald, from The Mic comments on this here:

In general, Muslims in Hollywood cinema exist as one-dimensional characters: ignorant menaces hell-bent on kidnapping or killing as many Westerners in service of their exotic, violent god. Edward Said famously coined the term “Orientalism” to describe the cultural practice of transforming those from eastern cultures — both Asian and Middle Eastern — into the Other. Orientalism in film presents exotic characters created from a Western political and social bias to simultaneously elicit a strong reaction against Eastern culture while reaffirming American and European values.

When it comes to Muslim women, Hollywood has tended to portray them as belly dancers, or silent women covered in veils. As one writer on the Arab Stereotypes website puts it:

Veiled women and belly dancers are two sides of the same coin. On the one hand, belly dancers code Arab culture as exotic and sexually available. Portrayals of Arab women as sexually available position them as existing for male pleasure. On the other hand, the veil has figured both as a site of intrigue and as the ultimate symbol of oppression. As a site of intrigue, the veil has been represented as a forbidden zone that invites male penetration.”

I recently watched the film “Amira and Sam” (2014), directed by writer and first time director Sean Mullin about a veteran who falls in love with an Iraqi immigrant. They meet through Amira’s uncle, who met Sam during his service in Iraq, and after they go out together more than one time, a love sparkle forms between the two, and they fight for their love against all those opposing it.

There seems to be nothing wrong with this story, it is just a love story between two young people in America; this might sound like a typical “star-crossed lovers” romance for a lot of us. But the way Amira was represented in the film and her actions is what causes the problem for the film.


March 3, 2015

This piece was written by guest contributor Amna Qureshi (@Amnamaq), and originally published at the Toronto Star.

Amna Qureshi #SuitablyDressed. Image via the Toronto Star.
Amna Qureshi #SuitablyDressed for court. Image via the Toronto Star.

Judge Eliana Marengo has made a serious error by telling a Muslim woman that she must take off her hijab in court before her case would be heard. Her justification — that the woman was not “suitably dressed” — is wrong-headed and a troubling slippery slope.

Last week a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, Rania El-Alloul, appeared on her own in a Quebec court without counsel and applied for the return of a vehicle seized through automobile insurance board proceedings. In the first few seconds of the matter being called, she was asked by the judge why she wore a scarf on her head, to which she replied that it was because she was Muslim. The judge took a 30-minute break and when she returned she told El-Alloul that unless she took off her hijab, her case would not be heard and that the only option El-Alloul had was to ask for an adjournment so she could receive some legal advice. Although El-Alloul opposed the adjournment and conveyed to the judge that she could not afford a lawyer, the judge still adjourned the case indefinitely.

Judge Marengo did not cite any security or identification concerns when she made this decision but instead conflated the hijab with sunglasses and hats, which are routinely removed by persons entering courtrooms and stated that the same rules ought to apply to all people. She also found issue with the hijab being a religious symbol, which in her opinion was not permitted in the courtroom stating that El-Alloul was not “suitably dressed” in accordance with the regulations of court.


October 6, 2014

Screenshot from video
Screenshot from “Hijab Makes You Beautiful”

When I was 19 years old and just exiting from the rebellious teenage years, I stepped out of the house with my hijabi sister. I was newly de-jabbed (the first tentative attempt of many), and feeling awkward and – for lack of a better description – naked. My neighbour happened to step out at the same time, looked at the two of us, and proceeded to declare my sister the prettier of the two of us.

“Beautiful! Your sister looks so beautiful in hijab!” Embarrassed, I tried to disappear. Eventually I realise that it’s never a good idea to listen to men’s ideas about what women wear because guess what? On a scale of 1 to 10 of how much their opinions matter, it’s exactly zero.

We are often told that hijab protects us from harassment and the male gaze. What we were conveniently not told is that hijab comes with its own unique type of male gaze, which can make you squirm just as much.

A few years ago, Nicole dissected a similar hijab-being-promoted-by-a-man song ‘You Got It Covered’ with an overwhelming response from both sides. This year, I present to you a Malaysian boy band singing a cover (the video describes it as a parody) of One Direction’s pop hit ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’, called ‘Hijab Makes You Beautiful’.


June 17, 2014

This post was originally published at Aquila Style.

[Image source].
Stories of gender-based violence, especially in times of conflict, is nothing new. But what pulled me towards this book was the geopolitical situation and demographic of conflict: the Khmer Rouge regime (also known as Democratic Kampuchea) of 1975-1979, and women of the targeted minority group of Cham Muslims. The sober dark purple and black cover foretells the sinister atrocities that I am set to read about; stories told by Cham Muslim women about life under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Based on the author’s master thesis at Ohio University, The Hijab of Cambodia is divided into five chapters. After an introduction and a first chapter explaining the historical background of the Cham Muslim community and the developments leading up to the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975, the book goes on to chronologically lay out the women’s stories according to three main themes: the women’s changing roles in the family, their attempts at preserving their religion and identity, and the forms of violence they faced.

Khmer Rouge regime

The genocidal policies of the Khmer Rouge had the goal of homogenising Cambodia’s population – to make everyone Khmer by silencing, killing, or forcing minority ethnic and religious groups to hide their identities, languages and religions. This was part of an overall plan for a utopian socialist and classless Cambodia that was based on mostly agricultural work, shunning capitalism and persecuting people who were deemed to be capitalist. Thus, the Khmer Rouge persecuted scholars, soldiers, doctors and others, and defrocked Buddhist monks – many were killed or sent to the battlefields.

A distinctive desire to eliminate religion in general was manifested in the desecration of mosques and monasteries, and the burning of religious books like the Buddha Dharma doctrine and the Qur’an. Speaking to Stuart Alan Becker of the Phnom Penh Post, author Farina So surmises that two instances of Cham uprisings in late 1975 during Ramadan caused the Khmer Rouge to particularly target Cham Muslims for extermination.[i] As a result, many of the 500,000 to 700,000 Cham Muslims had to pretend to be Khmer, changed their names, and took special care to not speak the Cham language. Despite this, many of them were still killed.

Acts of resistance

The women’s stories are situated in the post-1975 period of forced evacuation to the countryside. Millions of people were deported to rural areas to undertake manual and agricultural work. Across these three themes of family, religion and violence, an overarching interest is the covert and overt forms of resistance enacted by Cham Muslim women, motivated by the desire to maintain their ethnic and religious identities.

For example, Chapter 3 details how the regime instituted communal dining and living (thus separating parents from their children) according to their ideas of women empowerment and liberation from household duties. In response, Cham Muslim women resisted by secretly meeting their children to emotionally nurture and advise them, scavenging extra morsels like seafood and water spinach to cook late at night and eating together – eating at home was a sign of rebellion – or giving their newborn children Muslim names and reciting the adhan and shahada in their ears each night. (more…)

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