In my lifetime, the trajectory of the narrative of the “Muslimah” (be she American or otherwise), has undergone dramatic twists and turns, emerging into a new and often unrecognizable, landscape that leaves many lost, confused and misinformed.
The story has been shaped and evolved through geopolitical agendas, cultural, religious and feminist ideologies and what we find more often than not, is that we Muslim-American women are being spoken about, rather than speaking for ourselves.
From my friends…
The Burkini Ban “saves” women from oppression! How can you defend such a misogynistic practice that forces women to cover up on the beach?
The Muslimah Hijabi activist is an oppressed hypocrite! How can we take anything she says seriously while she’s wearing that “rag” on her head?
I find the hijab so beautiful. Would you teach me how to wrap a scarf like I see them wear on Instagram, Shireen?
I don’t see what the big deal is. (which, btw, sounds to me like the “I don’t see color” line of reasoning)
The hijab and this “extreme” form of patriarchal religiosity can be off-putting..why can’t the other Muslims dress more like you, Shireen?
I’m glad they’re letting hijabis play more sports now. But the reason girls dressed in skimpy bikinis to play volleyball is because well, you know, that’s what we wear to the beach.
…and from various members of my own family:
The hijab is backwards. What happened to feminism?
The hijab is the word of God. No conversation to be had. No debate possible. We will pray for you Shireen.
And here I stand. In between two worlds. At the intersection of culture, generation, religion and roles. I’m a mother. An educator. An artist. An advocate.
In this historic period of our collective societal awakening, as I see the yearning for more diverse, more inclusive representations of the broader world beyond the cis-white Eurocentric lens, I find myself searching for our story. Their story.
My hijabi sisters are literally my cousins, my aunts, my neighbors, my friends, my world.
I am part of The Tribe. The sisterhood. The Family. The UMMAH (the Islamic term that describes our global community)
Yet, I am pained to find that while THE story is starting to be heard, it is being written and shared by non-Muslim, non-Hijabi, non-Brown women.
I want to change that.
Language, perception, representation and awareness is changing at a pace that seems impossibly hard to keep up with. And yet, as Kimberle Crenshaw states ““When there’s no name for a problem, you can’t solve it”.
I ask myself “Can I rightfully speak for my Hijabi sisters while I myself am not a Hijabi”? And yet, when I am in public and private spaces of worship and prayer, I am veiled. I am and have always identified as Muslimah. I am bi-cultural, bilingual and bi-representational. (I just made that up! HA…another new word for a new idea!)
I present differently in different spaces and thus, I am appropriating the concept of fluidity. I’m hijab-fluid. I’m hijab-adjacent! Close enough to hijabi without practicing the hijab to its fullest extent.
I think my voice matters. I think my lens is valuable.
I want to speak for my sisters. I want to speak for myself!
I want to be seen.
I am here.
Join me as I think, write and draw about advocacy, diversity, fashion, beauty, art, identity, inclusion, education and representation.
Here we go…