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Debasing the Hijab

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Flashy modesty?

The effect and prominence of advertisements today have driven society from a functioning level of critical thinking into a group of consumers with practically no objectivity, bought easily into the notions of propaganda-laced media. A simple television advertisement can cause a person to feel utterly paranoid and self-conscious about their appearance, forcing them to spend ridiculous amounts on products that promise beauty and hence happiness. This effect is not only restricted to beauty and clothing products, but rather seeps through all that consumers hold in high regard. The phenomenon has subsequently led to the commercialization of religious holidays (with Christmas today being reduced to a mere title with little meaning), and in recent years has also established influence in the Muslim world, geared particularly towards females who wear the Hijab.

Amongst the numerous reasons as to why Muslim women choose to wear it, the Hijab is a symbolic representation of their rejection of being slaves to the world of fashion. Yet today, dozens if not hundreds of Hijab fashion websites touting the latest Hijab trends, fashion shops made solely for Hijabi females and general immodest clothing considered suitable for Muslim women have all attempted to slowly transform the Hijab into a fashion symbol of sorts. The concept of modesty in Islam is well and truly being confused with the common-day image of the Hijab. It seems to be forgotten that it was through Islam's high regard for modesty that the Hijab returned power to women following centuries of injustice and inequity, by allowing the character of a female to dictate her status, success and progress rather than her physical appearance.

In an increasingly materialistic society that functions only through individuals spending beyond their capacities, the inadequacies of the old system rejected by Islam and its oppressive status quo is being projected on Muslim women through the notion of "fashion Hijab" and the-hip-young-Muslimah-who-purchases-only-designer-wear. Where exactly does this contradiction manifest itself? It requires us to realize that in a society where females are directly and indirectly taught to limit their intellectual and social input, the concepts of Hijab and modesty are huge roadblocks. Consider that the only form of media which young females are overwhelmingly represented in is magazines, in which approximately 70 per cent of the editorial content focus on beauty and fashion while roughly 12 per cent cover topics such as school or careers.

Unfortunately, many modern Muslim women have – consciously or not – fallen short of the high rank God has afforded to them by forsaking His decree and instead chasing after the latest fashion trends. There is a large and growing market for Western-inspired clothing with immodest fabrics, colors and cuts being passed off as "Hijab fashion" today. While there are those who like to romanticize and claim that at last the Hijab is becoming hip, what we are actually witnessing instead is the deliberate watering down of God's directive on the Hijab. For when we make attempts to fuse modesty with fashion shows and name brands, we effectively remove its significance and allow it to become open to rapidly deteriorating interpretation. This is not to suggest Muslim women should dress in an unpolished and undignified manner as a means of obtaining self-ascribed asceticism. However, the purpose of Hijab is certainly defeated if it becomes primarily centered on the value of the clothing worn.

While promoting a very superficial understanding of the Islamic dress code, the recent upsurge in stores, high fashion designers and brands marketing flashy Hijab styles is continuously attracting and luring many young Muslim women today. There are countless Facebook websites with thousands of Muslim women supporting stores that are destroying the very essence of the Hijab. Eager to show the world how young Muslim women in the West are redefining the Hijab, media outlets endlessly highlight the arrival of the "high fashion Hijab" trend. More disturbing than this is the pride that Hijab-clad women are taking in these brands, which are fundamentally destroying their identity through debasing and devaluing the modest dress code. It serves a great purpose to remind ourselves that the Hijab is not simply a stylish accessory, but a way of life and character. It is for women not to be judged by their clothing size, brand of clothing, cosmetics or material possessions, but rather by spiritual submission and achievements.

Author of this article: Huda Jawad
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