With media depictions of "oppressed" Muslim women, and last summer's failed burkini ban in France, as well as the European Union's recent discriminatory rule against hijabs in the workplace, women of Islam have become a target for hateful ideals and ignorant rhetoric.
While many are aware that most imagery spread about this group and their attire is simply untrue, who better to speak on religion, modesty, feminism and fashion other than the women of Islam themselves?
Speaking to seven Muslim women from a range of diverse backgrounds, we got a first-hand take on their day-to-day lives and surrounding communities as it relates to their religious practices and style. Their responses give those looking from the outside in a refreshing new perspective on these women's realities.
"I chose to wear a hijab when I was about 13 years old. My reasons have varied over the years, but at this point, my hijab is one of many ways I choose to express myself. Every day we make conscious choices as to how we wish to be perceived by those around us — and I choose to be perceived visibly as a Muslim woman. I am proud of my faith, and I’m happy to be a symbol of it. Wearing long sleeves and pants even through the summer, making small adjustments to let current fashion work for me, all while wrapping a hijab on my head and staying on trend. Modesty varies between cultures — in some spaces, it is commonplace to show more skin, in others the opposite — but I think the constant theme is not being ostentatious.
I view modesty in the same way I view humility, and it encompasses far more than your dress; it’s about how you carry yourself, how you speak to those around you. To me, modesty in fashion is less about how much you cover, and more about how you present yourself. Hijab does not define modesty because a simple piece of cloth will never accomplish that on its own — rather it is the individual who gives the hijab its meaning. I am thankful that within my Muslim community I am accepted as the individual that I am. My community recognizes that hijab is a personal choice and that each woman who chooses to wear it has the agency to decide what that entails. I’m sure that I may not fulfill every expectation of what a Muslim woman should wear, but I am also not here to fit into narrow boxes."
"My style leans toward the eccentric and so I have a wardrobe full of patterns and bright colours. I use my hijab as a stand-alone statement piece or as a complementing factor. The hijab is meant to serve as a positive force in your life. For me, it means serving as an ambassador for Islam in the most colourful way possible. Unfortunately, I think the idea of 'modesty' in Islam has been, to a degree, corrupted by the traditions of those who practice the faith. One side of my family is conservative Pakistani, with them, being modest doesn’t require a hijab, and instead subservience and a soft tongue. Needless to say, I think that wearing a hijab made me the opposite of a traditional modest Pakistani girl. It made me brave and confident enough to voice my opinions and fight for what I believe in. I don’t think older, conservative Muslims rooted in cultural traditions understand why I dress the way I do and I tend to get a lot of backhanded compliments from the 'aunty community.' Luckily, I come from a line of resilient and fiercely independent women, so I don’t pay much attention to those who try to bring my self-confidence down."
"I can't remember exactly when I wore the hijab full-time, but I might have been about 12.
There are so many pressures to being a hijabi — as if how you dress is directly indicative of how religious you might be. That's not really the case, my relationship with God is exactly that, my relationship with God. I know my hijab makes me visibly Muslim — and I'm proud of that. It makes me even stronger in my faith. But just because I wear the hijab doesn't mean I make more trips to the mosque than the girl who doesn't wear one.
In my everyday wear, I try to have fun with my outfits. Culture plays a big role — being Yemeni-Canadian, I love pops of colour and long tunics, but also prefer layering patterned shirts with heavier fall knits. There's also the ability to tap into traditional wear for fancier gatherings or as a statement piece. Over the years, my style has evolved and has been influenced by so many things — but one thing remains stagnant, and that's my commitment to it being an extension of my very self. I love that I'm in a space where I don't have to hide who I am to make other people comfortable.
"In the western world, even in Canada, I know that my hijab is seen as a political statement. Both within and outside my community, there are those who think a Muslim woman should dress a certain way — that is, not be interested in looking good. But that’s unfair to both the religion of Islam and Muslim women. There is a saying, hadith, from the Prophet Muhammad, 'God is beautiful and He loves beauty.' When the Prophet was asked, 'What if someone likes that his clothing and his shoes are beautiful?' the Prophet replied, 'Allah loves to see the effects of His grace upon His servant.'
My hijab has become so much of my personal identity that I can’t imagine life without it. The experiences I have had while wearing my hijab have shaped me into the person I am today. My hijab has shaped my personal style, too. While I was a teenager, I gravitated towards Vogue and Teen Vogue, in an attempt to learn more about high fashion and personal style. I have always found it hard to adopt fast fashion trends, but much easier to learn how to build a personal style that is unique."
"I decided to wear the hijab solely based on my own personal choice. It was a huge step for me as an adolescent who was discovering her identity. When I first began wearing the hijab, I was not too comfortable in it since I was not familiar with incorporating it in my everyday wardrobe. However, over the years I began to grow a huge interest in fashion, which helped me develop my sense of style. I am proud to say that my hijab has impacted my life in a very positive way and has played a huge part in shaping my identity growing up, into the individual that I am today. By wearing the hijab I am not conforming to the societal beauty standards that are set for me to follow as a young woman. Rather, it is my way of resisting the negative social and political backlash as well as the societal expectations of how I should look or dress as a woman. In fact, wearing the hijab makes me feel beautiful, confident and resilient.
Especially with the rise of modest fashion, I feel empowered and inspired by Muslim women fashion designers and bloggers such as, Dina Tokio and Dian Pelangi, who are sharing their unique personal styles on social media. This is critical in our ever-changing global society, as the fashion industry needs to be more representative of our current society. As a modest fashion blogger, I love sharing and showcasing my personal style on my Instagram account in order to make hijab wearing Muslim women more visible in the fashion world."
"I have always loved dressing up since I was a little girl, in fact, it is one of the ways I choose to express my femininity, which is a core part of my identity. So having to separate my Muslim identity, from my female identity, is almost impossible, because the Hijab is a core part of who I am.
Islam is an extremely diverse religion of 1.6 billion people. This means that based on the culture and the customs of the country the definition of modesty varies for both men and women. What is interesting is that when people think of modesty, they think of one’s clothing, especially as it pertains to women, which is inherently sexist. It should be highlighted that there is a clear distinction between culture and religion. The Quran clearly states modesty for both men and women. In fact, the Quran emphasizes the modesty of the eyes first, in Surah Al-Nur (The Light), in which God commands men not to gaze at women lustfully. When in fact, in most cultures, including the west, the women are often blamed and held accountable for the actions of men in regards to rape culture. When in fact, as the Quran states, it is the men who should be held accountable for their actions and not gaze at women lustfully, regardless of the way they choose to dress."
"I wore the hijab at a young age. My mother wore it, my aunts and sisters wore it. All the female adults in my presence wore it. I knew why a Muslim woman wore the hijab, the reasons behind the teachings, but it took me couple years of self-reflection to come to terms that yes, I am my hijab, and my hijab is me.
I love fashion. I’ll hit the mall and grab an outfit from Aritzia or Club Monaco, you name it. And I’ll take that outfit and 'hijabanaze' it a.k.a. turn it into hijab friendly outfit.
What I want folks to stop doing is assuming Muslim women are oppressed. I am a feminist, and for me, I choose to cover my body and celebrate it. And with that, we all celebrate our differences. Women from different cultures may dress modestly with their cultural-infused taste. A woman from Pakistan will dress different compared to a woman from Somalia. Both modest, both culturally infused styles.
And to anyone who thinks hijabs are worn because a man said so, the reality is, the hijab is not to protect men. Matter of fact it has nothing to do with men — it’s to honour the women."
Note: Responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
Also on HuffPost