*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:

The kids are in bed, the Hubby is away on travel and I have a bowl full of popcorn and a bag of chocolate at my fingertips. Yes, you read that right — an entire BAG of chocolate. This can only mean one thing: it’s time for a Muslim roundup!

It’s a super badass muslimah version of the roundup this week. We’ve got real superheroes, rockin’ muslimahs, some motherhood badassery, and of course, hijab.


Ilwad and Iman Elman, inside the Elman Peace Centre. Photo credit: Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star.

Ilwad and Iman Elman, inside the Elman Peace Centre. Photo credit: Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star.

1) Real life superheroes live among us.

With hijab fatigues blazing, Canadians Ilwad and Iman Elwad are helping rebuild Mogadishu, Somalia by taking on gender violence and the militant group Al-Shabab. No small feat for these two amazing sisters!

According to the Toronto Star, about three years ago, Ilwad and her sister left Canada to join their mother in promoting women’s rights and to help run the Elman Peace Centre, a rape crisis shelter.

Iman joined the military and is now Commander for a battalion of 90 men. And while the capital is no longer a war zone, she continues to fight and lead security operations outside the city. Remarking on this success, she humbly explains:

“Being raised in Canada, I was taught you’re no different from any guy, you’re equal, you’re the same,” she says. “When I went into the military they said, ‘You can’t do that, it’s not your job.’ I wanted to break some of the stereotypes here.”

These two sisters are so beyond badass that someone better help me come up with a word that means more badass than badass.

It also seems that superhero powers run in the family. Before his tragic murder, their father was a well-known peace activist, cared for orphans and ran community programs. And their fabulous mother, Fartuun Adan, recently received an International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. Department of State for her humanitarian work.

They’re already saving the world, so the only thing I can say is that I’m keeping you ladies in my dua’as. Well done and keep up the good fight.

Random Stars rockin' out.

Random Stars rockin’ out.

2) No bad veil puns. No subtle allusions to women unchaining the shackles of oppression. Just five women from the United Arab Emirates rockin’ out to Deep Purple. The FIRST band of fantastically fierce Emirati women to belt out heavy metal chords on their electric guitars.

All thanks to Ms Small.

Brought together by their English teacher, these students from the Higher Colleges of Technology at Al Ain, had little to no experience with drums, bass or guitars — but now according to The National, they “perform at a variety of college events such as graduation ceremonies and National Day celebrations.”

Lead guitarist Hamda Al Ghaithi played piano and guitar for two years before hearing about the band:

“I met Ms Small and she told me about how the girls wanted to play and make a band. At first I didn’t like rock because I was studying classical guitar, but I prefer rock guitar now. I hope after I finish studying here that I will study music and play classical piano.”

Smoke on the water baby. Just wait until you all really get into Classic Rock. Ladies, you got to get yourselves on YouTube!

3) A word to the wise, don’t mess with mothers defending their right to motherhood:

PressTV covered a recent protest by civil rights groups and families calling for the religious freedom of Muslim women and their civil liberty to pick up their children from school.

Mothers in headscarves are facing new discrimination at some schools who now object to seeing headscarves in the playground before and after school — claiming that the hijab’s “outward sign of religious practice go against the French law of religious neutrality in state-run institutions.”

*blank stare*

I don’t really need to get into how ridiculous this is, do I?

Try this: stand in-between a mother bear and her cub. Tell the mother bear that she can’t have her child until she looks more human. Pick up a pair of shears. Attempt to shave the bear and liberate her from her fur. Watch what happens.

faiza4) Every little girl named Faiza just had her mind blown.

This is going viral right now just about everywhere, but if you haven’t heard the fantabulous news, Faiza Hussain, British Pakistani doctor by day, Excalibur by night has just been dubbed, Captain Britain.

A little backstory, Brian Baddock (the current Captain Britain) is teaming up with Captain Marvel (Avengers) on a kind of suicide mission against the evil Ultron (in “The Age of Ultron” storyline). Before leaving, he needs Faiza to keep MI-13 running. He needs “Captain Britain” to survive. For hope. For humanity.

A mainstream comic, Muslim, hijabi superhero people! What’s not to love?

This awe inspiring character wields the Arthurian sword Excalibur and can disassemble and reassemble people at the subatomic level. She’s also a healer by nature and a massive superhero fan girl  — so you know she’ll keep to her roots.

OMG MARVEL! DISNEY! DO AN AVENGERS CROSS-OVER MOVIE! I know you’re planning a Captain Marvel movie sometime in the future. Maybe we can hope for an on-screen Muslim woman superhero before 2025.

Me rockin' a turban twist by babylailalov.

Me rockin’ a turban twist inspired by babylailalov.

5) Finally, what DOES it mean to be a modern Muslim woman?

Well, according to the Daily Beast’s great piece on The Rise of Hijab Fashion Bloggers, the modern Muslim woman is “eclectic” and “creative” — bending the visuality of hijab with a blend of “vintage finds, lavish jewellery, Japanese-inspired silhouettes, high-end British sophistication and urban edge.”

The media may portray Muslim females as shrouded in black head-to-toe robes, feeding the stereotypical idea that modernism—not to mention fashion—and Islam cannot mix. But, as this crop of popular fashion blogs shows, wearing a hijab can mean a great number of things to a variety of women.

Well, yes. But point of information: Not all modern Muslim women wear hijab. And some modern Muslim women are shrouded in black head-to-toe robes. And they all have the potential to be eclectic, fashionable and creative.

Oh, but I do love watching hijab tutorials. Honestly, they’re awesome. From make-up to hijab pins — YouTube stars branching off into their own fashion lines and doing what inspires them. Kick-ass.

Here’s my current favourite style. Just in time for summer:

This week’s roundup is a little bit of a mixed bag. I’ve come down with yet another cold and perhaps it’s the extra lemon and honey that’s got me finding strange stories. Or maybe it’s just the Media just talking about Muslims again.

Yeah, after reading about Muslim women models, non-threatening Muslims, and left-field fatwas, I’m going with option #2.


1) So, if a Muslim woman can win the Miss USA beauty pageant, why is it such a stretch of the imagination when a Muslim Modelling Agency splashes on the scene?

Launching during New York Fashion Week, UNDERWRAPS aims to become the first global agency representing the Muslim Female Fashion Model. Fashionista covers this story with an in-depth interview with fashion designer and founder of UNDERWRAPS, Nailah Lymus:

“[Muslim models] come from a background where they dress Islamically appropriate, but to be in this industry and to be a model you kind of have to forfeit that,” Lymus said. “That’s why I wanted to start this agency, so you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to lose who you are to be in this business.”

Natch, the Islamofashionsphere on Facebook and Twitter are all buzzing over the absolute paradox a Muslim modelling agency creates.

I see no contradiction between fashion and modesty. Muslim countries have hundreds of successful Muslim designers creating modest (and not so modest) styles for the discerning (and not so discerning) Muslim woman. Why not start another fashion trend leaning toward modesty from within the industry itself? As the tagline for the agency says: UNDERWRAPS – creating a fusion for inclusion.

(hey wait a second… sounds like creeping shari’a to me!)

*gasp* could you imagine a modest American Apparel? The mind boggles.

2) A group of professional Muslims have joined together to create the first annual Muslim English Spelling Bee! Registration is now open and apparently schools from across America will be joining in to host this event sometime in March or April. It’s theme is “connecting communities through eduction” and is open to Muslim students in public, private, home and Islamic scools.

With Muslims already participating (and *cough* winning) America’s national spelling bees… I just have to ask: WHY?

3) In response to the media fallout over the Shafia murder trial, the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada has issued a fatwa against honour killings and domestic abuse. Apparently the fatwa was issued in my city probably at a mosque I frequent, though I had to read about it in the news…

Actually, I’m not sure why we need a fatwa, seeing that honour killing and domestic abuse already are against Islamic teachings…

Wait a second, who on earth is the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and why are they issuing fatwas in the non religious state of Canada?

Ok, sarcasm aside, my hijab goes off (oops!) to any imam who speaks against domestic violence and honour killings — especially when there are those who believe they have the religious right.

But here, instead read this amazing piece on the media sensationalizing the Shafia case and race on BitchMedia.

4) The New York Times covers the release of a new report claiming that terrorism by Muslim Americans is “a minuscule threat to public safety.” The report also finds that there is no single ethnic group dominating the 20 American Muslims charged in violent plots or attacks against America in 2011. In fact, 40% are converts.


Yeah. I don’t have much to say about this one.

(we told you so?)

5) Finally, lets end the weekend with a supurb little documentary outlining the contribution of Muslim Women in Europe. Former MTV host Kristiane Backer, female boxer Ambreen Saddique, leading Astrophysicist Rim Turkmani and more show us how they are Muslim Women of Influence.

Privilege Denying Dude: curing society one hijab at a time.

Once when I was a young and naive new Muslim, I had a terrible conversation with a woman who was sincerely trying to learn about the hijab.

After saying hello, she very nicely blurted out her question: why do you wear that head-scarf-thing?  Thinking I was being witty, I decided to relate a particularly inspiring story I had just read online:  When a woman receives a diamond engagement ring and shows it off, everyone compliments how bright, beautiful and wonderful it is. More and more people, even strangers see the diamond and shower the woman with praises. But soon, the excitement of the diamond slowly starts to fade, and it becomes common. It grows dull and nothing special. But what if you hide that diamond and keep it secret — showing it only to the people who truly love and care for you? Then the brightness of that diamond never fades and is valued each time it’s shown. A woman’s hair is a beautiful adornment, just like a diamond. And is so special that it should only be shared with her father and husband — not with any strange man that comes along.

She smiled, and seemed to accept my explanation. I was elated — and armed with more gems from Imam Internet we continued our chat. She asked, “aren’t you hot in that thing?”  Without skipping a beat, I smiled and said, “Hell is hotter.”

Our conversation slammed to halt. It’s no wonder she glared at me and stopped smiling. I don’t think I could have been any more ignorant, arrogant or rude.

A good portion of English, online sources about hijab are geared toward converts or aim to convince women to take on the hijab. Their arguments use sparkly, treasure imagery, presenting women as precious pearls who deserve to be safeguarded from the evils in this world. Women need to be proud and empowered. Hijab can do that for you. Islam asks its followers to behave modestly. Hijab can do that for you. Women deserve to be respected. Hijab can do that for you. Western notions of beauty require you to spend hours on your hair, make-up and starve your body. Hijab liberates you from superficial notions of beauty. Hijab makes you confident, allows you to move freely in society by removing your sexuality, protects you from assault, raises your status among believers, and helps people judge you for your words and actions, not your body.

Until it doesn’t.


We’ve got some tongue-in-cheek, some brilliance and a little bit of slander in this edition of the roundup. Enjoy!

Again, if you come across anything of interest regarding Islam, Muslim women or Muslims in general and would like me to review it, answer questions, or just comment on it here, flip it to me via: w00dturtl3 {at} gmail {dot} com.

  • There is yet. another. article about young Muslim hijabistas. This time it’s the Globe and Mail weighing in on the subject.

    The looks on mainstream fashion blogs expose a little too much t and a in Ali’s view. Instead, it’s Hijab Style and Hijab Revival that make her daily reading list. The latter sites feature a lot more than the standard-issue black cotton head scarves synonymous with Islam.

    Apparently the Globe and Mail has never been to Turkey, Kuwait, or really anywhere in the Gulf. And they’ve never picked up a copy of Muslim American Girls Magazine either. Maybe it’s big news that hijabis are bedazzling their hijabs and sharing style tips through blogs and social media, but really folks, fashionable Muslim ladies styling their hijabs is old news.

  • Via KABOBfest: A story that gained international attention, but that was largely ignored by the mainstream American Media, was the outreaching of Heartsong Church who welcomed their Muslim neighbours by putting them up in the church for evening prayers during Ramadan. Instead of putting up a sign that read, “Qur’an burning tonight at 8pm,” their sign read, “Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the Neighborhood.” Awww.
  • A smear campaign for candidates running in Toronto’s mayoral race backfired. Fliers with anti-gay sentiments for openly gay candidate, George Smitherman, were apparently directed toward Muslim voters. The reaction?

    The flyers were plastered over posters of city council candidate Rasal Rahman, a Muslim and Smitherman supporter, who said Sunday “I don’t like dirty politics. Islam may say homosexuality is not for Muslims, but it doesn’t say don’t vote for these people.”

My closet is conspiring against me.

I’m in that awkward phase of in-between — it’s not quite winter enough for a turtleneck, but it’s not warm enough for a maxi dress.  I’m also sick of wearing mommy cardigans embellished with flung spaghetti and overly patterned nursing tops.  My jeans have holes in the knees from crawling around on the floor. I’m missing my old semi-formal work attire.

So my closet is conspiring, and this directly impacts my hijab.  I’m having a bad hijab day.

Wearing the hijab isn’t easy. Especially for the fashion conscious.

I’ve been advised that one should keep a three colour minimum when assembling an outfit. Floral prints or houndstooth should be saved for accent pieces, and when in doubt choose black. When adding a layer to your head, this really complicates things.

I sometime agonize over the colour of my hijab. Recently at a good friend’s wedding, I lucked out when I found a lovely dress and purple sequined pumps to match. But it took me forever to find the right scarf. The dress has deep purple flower accents, do I go with a deep purple solid? No. It’s summer, a purple head screams winter. What about a Turkish floral print? No. There’s way too much going on already on the dress. Black? Maybe, but it’s summer!

Then there are the days that I have to take the colour and patterns of the baby’s clothes and carrier into consideration or risk looking like a circus clown. You can’t even go with the same colour for the entire ensemble — unless you enjoy looking like a giant blueberry, eggplant or banana.

Then depending on the coverage needed, there’s styling to consider.  Are you wearing a turtleneck or a low v-neck?. Do you go with the Spanish hijab? Babushka look? Dupatta? Amira? Kuwaiti Beehive? Or something more funky?

Sometimes it can feel like you need a team of specialists to help research and construct your hijab for the day. Is it windy outside? Raining? Are you headed to the airport and need to minimize pins so you don’t set off the metal detector? Will you be playing frisbee? Dealing with children tugging on just about everything?

Luckily for me, there is yet another article covering the, “ZOMG Western, veiled, Muslim women are fashionable and causing a stir in the Islamic world” trend in the media. This time it’s the LATimes reporting on an emerging hijab stylist in Cali.

Atik has taken the Muslim head scarf, often known as hijab, and turned it into a canvas for her fashion sensibilities, with ideas inspired by designs from Forever 21 and H&M as well as haute couture runways and the pages of Vogue and Elle. Showing her latest design at a mosque was her way of gauging sentiment on scarves that go beyond the limited fashion realm they have thus far inhabited, such as floral and geometric prints or lace and beaded embellishments.

Atik sees the fashion industry’s treatment of the hijab as staid and lackluster. She wants to make the scarves edgier, with fringes, pleats, peacock feathers, animal prints.

Eeee. Really? I love my animal print hijabs — they really shake up a blazer/work pant mix.  But peacocks?  Maybe I’m getting old.

I’m really excited for Marwa Atik.  She’s a young entrepreneur and she’ll go far insha’Allah.  Too bad the article just HAS to compare her with a conservative viewpoint on hijab:

Eiman Sidky, who teaches religious classes at King Fahd mosque in Culver City, is among those who say attempts to beautify the scarf have gone too far. In countries like Egypt, where Sidky spends part of the year, religious scholars complain that women walk down the street adorned as if they were peacocks.

“In the end they do so much with hijab, I don’t think this is the hijab the way God wants it; the turquoise with the yellow with the green,” she said.

Oops. Peacocks again. Just once I’d like an article to be written about a successful Muslim fiashionista without resorting to the arguement that styling your hijab is new, revolutionary, defeating the purpose of modesty, or antithetical to what hijab is supposed to be. We really have to stop positioning the Western hijab against a conservative voice.

Hijab has always been a personal expression, even if you decide to only wear drab browns and blacks. Again people, fashion in the hijab world is nothing new.  Islam in North America continues to define itself — and cultural expression through the hijab is just one way we’re doing it.

Back to the fashion for a moment. They’re very nice, but yeah, I must be getting old:

This just seems like way too much material for me.  I can just imagine getting a face full of hijab every. single. time. I stoop to pick up a dropped toy.  And maybe it’s the baby, but the style is pretty reminiscent of a bib.  Ok, I might be able to get away with a GINORMOUS bow on my hijab (my fav out of the bunch). And the Victorian ruffles are nice, but how often can you wear a Victorian-inspired outfit in a week?  Yes, yes, every day if you’re a vampire.  So how often should you wear ruffles?

Seeing that I can’t stand to have my scarf bunching around my neck, I guess I’m just not fashionable enough.  Ooh, does that make me a conservative?

Image Credit: Vela Scarves

Younger, Westernized Muslim women are seeking out trendy styles, with one Orange County student selling designs inspired by Vogue and Elle. But some critics wonder whether the stylish creations defeat the purpose of modesty.