*dusts off computer*

Amazing! It’s time for another edition of the Muslim roundup! For new readers, this is one of my favourite blog features where I scan the media for the ridiculous, the outrageous, the amazing and the most fabulous articles about Muslim women and Islam in general and throw a bunch of informal snark into the mix.

This week we look at fashion, fierce fitness, hijab appropriation, and as always, some truly badass muslimahs.


1) Be fashion forward, shocking, and controversial — shine bright like a diamond while wearing Islamic attire!

Singer Rihanna sporting a pseudo-abaya and black hijab.

Singer Rihanna sporting a pseudo-abaya and black hijab.

This week, R&B pop artist Rihanna caused a bit of a stir when she joined the burqa-swag-exploitation ranks of Madonna and Lady Gaga by engaging in a little Muslim appropriation. Authorities at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque asked Rihanna and her staff to leave the premises after an impromtu photo-shoot on the mosque grounds.

Like most places of worship, the Grand Mosque has protocols in place to maintain sanctity, order, and the privacy of worshipers. Allegedly, Ri-Ri ignored these protocols by entering through an area restricted to visitors, not identifying herself to mosque officials for a private tour, and not obtaining a permit for a photo shoot that had her in various non-mosque-appropriate-poses. After the photos were uploaded to Instagram, the mosque released a level-headed and general statement explaining the incident, saying that “a singer” who was taking pictures “that do not conform with the conditions and regulations put in place by management,” left after being asked to do so. Seems pretty innocuous, right?

Naturally, the media buzz is generating SHOCK and AWE about what she wore — an “Islama-chic” black jumpsuit, hoodie, and burn my hijab, MAKEUP!! *gasp*

From the Globe and Mail:

[In the photos] Rihanna is also wearing eye makeup along with bright-red lipstick and nails – modern fashion accessories spurned in the bustling Islamic city.

Really. Really? Globe and Mail? Obviously the Globe and Mail has never, ever spoken with an actual Muslim woman living in the Gulf region. The literal birthplace of red lipstick.

Look, you want to wear hijab out of respect and take the 100 fils mosque guided tour, go for it. But Rhianna’s instagram betrays just how little she actually thinks of Muslim women and the hijab:

"Bitch stole my look" reads the caption as Rihanna give some cut-eye to some passing women.

“Bitch stole my look” reads the caption as Rihanna gives some cut-eye to passing women on their way to pray.

Nice. Just stay under your umbrella the next time you want to fetishize and sexualize Muslim women’s clothing for your personal fashion shoot Ri-Ri.

"Memories of Childhood" by Selina Roman.

“Memories of Childhood” by Selina Roman.

2) Also cashing in on the grand “burqa swag” narrative is The Burqa Project — recently covered (HAHA) by online art magazine Beautiful/Decay.

In 2009 Selina Roman started documenting the burqa in various poses. Yes, you read that right. She’s not documenting Muslim women — but the burqa.

According to the article, Roman, a former reporter-turned fashion photographer, hopes to offer her audience a different view point, a new way of seeing:

Although the Burqa is shrouded in religious significance, I take it out of this context in an attempt to explore these other attributes. Instead of showcasing it as an oppressive garment, I place the Burqa in idyllic Florida landscapes to let it float and billow. In turn, it becomes an ephemeral and weightless object removed from its politicized context.

I guess there are no idyllic Afghani landscapes to let the burqa float and billow? Oh wait, here’s one. The burqa is an inherently oppressive garment? Here are some Afghan women who might argue that the source of oppression lies in patriarchy, gender discrimination, and religiously-justified misogyny — not in clothing.

Is it art? Is it life? Is it objectifying the already objectified? How meta.

3) Move over spray tanned, bikini-clad celebrity bodies — here come some seriously fit and fierce hijabi fitness instructors.

Zaineb and

The fierce and fantastic Zainab and Nadine.

I never thought I’d say this, but the Daily Mail has a really great article on the first “Islamic” fitness DVD. Meet Nadine Abu Jubara, a personal trainer, and instructor Zainab Ismail (THE hijabi drill sergeant). Together they make up the team behind Nadoona — a fitness and health support website geared primarily toward women concerned with modesty.

The motivation behind the website and soon to be released fitness video came when Nadine lost over 50 pounds after changing her dieting and fitness lifestyle. Finding there were few Islamic resources in this arena to support her, she decided to create her own.

Women, not just Muslim women, tend to use modesty as an excuse to neglect their bodies. Long sleeves and flowing tops shouldn’t mean flabby arms and love handles. And, a strenuous workout doesn’t require machines and a crowded gym full of spectators.

The Nadoona website reads like a regular fitness resource. Upon first glance, you probably wouldn’t notice anything particularly “Islamic” about it — except for maybe saying “bismillah” before starting on your fitness journey, and the YUMMY “Fit for Allah” smoothie. They have a 30 day challenge, hijabista events, and even workout instructions for men. And the hard work and intention to regain health seems to work, according to the testimonials.

I’m totally in love with these women! They are my heroes for the week. They are fierce. FIERCE!! TIGHT!! Makes me want to workout for Allah for a living!

Check out the body-pumping DVD teaser here:

4) Finally, I did a thing.

Langston Hues is an amazing Muslim visual artist and photographer, and he’s working on a book commemorating the emerging faith-driven culture of modest street style being seen in magazines, runways and on streets worldwide. The write-up on his website explains:

It is the first book to visually document this ever growing international trend that has exploded from the streets of Kuala Lumpur to the alleys of New York City. Profiling some of the top ‘hijabistas’ this is a must-have inside look into a twenty-first-century genesis of a faith driven style.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a top hijabista — just an urban chic mom trying to hide spilled yogurt with animal prints and looking fabulous while babywearing.

Langston was amazing to work with. He’s incredibly humble, funny and talented — and I’m so honoured and thrilled to be a part of this project.

Check it out, and try to guess which one is me:

Recently, prolific commenter Erin, sent me an email expressing her thoughts about the German poster campaign featured in a previous muslim roundup. She was so impassioned that I asked her to organize her thoughts into a guest post for her blogging debut. An extensive world-traveller and visual artist currently hailing from Calgary, please join me in welcoming Erin to the blog.

"Oppressed women are easily overlooked. Please support us in the fight for their rights."

At first glance, she does not immediately jump out at you. She is wearing a burka the same colour as trash bags.

There is something very disturbing and inappropriate about this poster by the German NGO, Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (IGFM), and the way it presents the point that it’s trying to make. The way it views women, particularly Muslim women as “other,” and particularly how it proposes that they need “saving.” Although my opinions are based on someone who is female, Muslim, and a feminist, I do not think you need to be all, or any, of these identities to have the same reaction.

To the West, Afghanistan is a representative of all that is negative and backward about Islam, a country clearly in need of “assistance.” The Taliban, and now the government, use the religion of Islam to justify oppressive cultural practices against women and to reduce: their status, freedom, ability to work, opportunity for proper education, opportunity for healthcare, and ability to exercise political rights. As a woman and as Muslim, I abhor this.

There are many other cultures, governments, religious leaders, and dictators in the world who use their religions, patriarchal belief systems, or politic power to justify oppressive practices against women. Regardless of whatever religion you are, this is wrong and it should never be an issue of Muslims only helping Muslims, or Christians only helping Christians.

At first glance, (or second glance in my case since I did not initially realize that there was a woman in the photograph, which, I think, is the intent) there is a very powerful and obvious statement being made — a statement about the way Afghan women are viewed in their society, how they are treated, and their particular role.


David Mitchell of The Observer has announced that he’ll (possibly) put on the burqa if Britain decides to ban it.

Tattoos and burqas are all the rage. One in five of us now has a tattoo and there are enough burqas around to invoke talk of banning them. Some people, presumably, sport both – but they’re difficult to identify without causing an embarrassing scuffle. Especially if the person under the burqa turns out to be a woman.

‘Tis true. Niqaabis do sport tattoos and facial piercings. I met a group of “punk Muslims” at a 2004 Islamic conference. The niqaab for them was the ultimate form of rebellion and protest.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, deftly dismissed calls for a burqa ban as “rather un-British”. I imagine he was hoping that this would cause a sort of feedback loop in the minds of xenophobes: “Hate not British! Burqa not British! Hate burqa! Ban burqa! Banning not British! Hate banning! Ban banning! Ban burqa! Ban burqa banning! Does not compute!”

It’s a fun, refreshing article — I highly suggest reading it with your morning tea, or whenever you’re feeling silly.

And this just made my day.

Tomorrow Eryn and I are going to her second conference! Veiled Constellations is intended to:

problematize the prevailing discourses surrounding the veil while exploring its subversive potential.

Ooooh… how I love subversion. But I do! Subversion challenges the “norm” and forces it to critically analyze itself. We wouldn’t have law if we didn’t have crazy “heretics” running around subverting normative standards and forcing the “orthodoxy” into creating protective laws. And it’s a little fun.. like blowing a great, big, fat raspberry in the face of whatever pisses you off, puts you down or holds you back.

For example, in French and Turkish universities, it’s been reported that muslim women who veil,  subvert the anti-hijab laws by wearing wigs on top of their hijabs, or simply shave their heads in protest.