Cosplaying knows no bounds.
A growing number of Muslim women are starting to cosplay, and in doing so, finding creative ways to integrate their modest clothing styles and hijabs into their costumes.
Cosplay — short for costume play — is a form of performance art where participants dress up as characters, often at various science fiction and comic book conventions.
One popular way for Muslim women to partake is by turning their hijabs into a character’s hair or wearing nude-coloured clothing and modifying traditional get-ups to be more in line with their beliefs.
Kira, a Malaysian cosplayer, told Mashable that she decided to become involved in cosplay after she met another hijab-wearing Malaysian cosplayer, and was inspired to try incorporating her hijab into costumes.
“Around seven years ago I attended an event and saw a hijab cosplayer ... and her costume was modified to that suitable for a Muslim,” she said. “At that time it was hard to find [any] hijab cosplayers.”
Kira, who goes by Saakira Cosplayer when she’s in costume, said she began dressing up in this way in 2013.
"Around seven years ago I attended an event and saw a hijab cosplayer ... and her costume was modified to that suitable for a Muslim."
“[Cosplay gives me a chance to] show my love for the character and at the same time, cover up,” she said.
Kira, who has dressed as Powerpuff Girls and Sailor Moon characters, among others, also told Mashable she analyzes the characters she picks first to make sure their clothes don’t have elements from other religions.
The 23-year-old is one of many cosplayers regular featured on the Facebook page Hijab Cosplay Gallery, which was created in 2013 and showcases cosplay looks from Muslim women.
Hafizah Rashid, 33, is another Malaysian cosplayer. She told Al Jazeera cosplayers need to understand their characters before they can try to portray them. She and her sisters regularly spend months working on their costumes and studying their characters before participating in conventions and competitions.
“I choose characters that don't reveal skin and hair. Because of that, most wear body armour," Rashid said.
Malaysia has emerged as a particularly big star in the world of Muslim cosplay. The country’s first ever hijab-dedicated cosplay convention, Japan Otaku Matsuri, was held in April. The two-day long event took place at a mall near Kuala Lumpur, and attendees disguised their hijabs as hair and capes.
Muslim girls wearing the 'hijab' dress as popular cosplay characters during the 'Hijab Cosplay' event in Subang Jaya, outside of Kuala Lumpur, on April 29, 2017.
Twenty-year-old Nur Zainina Ruzana binti Zulkifli, who goes as Nuzaru when she’s cosplaying, attended the convention and competed for the top prize dressed as a mix between Princess Kida from the Disney’s "Atlantis" and a hooded character from the Assassin’s Creed video game series. She told Al Jazeera she likes to pick characters who inspire her.
"I love Princess Kida because she's a really, really strong and tough independent woman. She stands up for what she believes in. And she's not really afraid of anything," she said.
“"I love Princess Kida because she's a really, really strong and tough independent woman. She stands up for what she believes in. And she's not really afraid of anything,"
Another Malaysian cosplayer and makeup artist, Saraswati, a.k.a. Queen of Luna, is also known for her hijab-wearing cosplays on Instagram, as she often portrays Disney princesses and other well-known characters.
But the concept of Muslims participating in cosplay isn’t limited to Malaysia.
In February, Saudi Arabia held its first Comic Con. The event included a separate tent for women where they could take off their abayas and show off their costumes.
And in England, Dania Khalil, who goes by the pseudonym Hijabi Hooligan, sparked headlines when she dressed up as Captain America, as many believed she was American and making a political statement during U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign.
“I never meant it as a statement in any way,” the 22-year-old said. “But I feel quite strongly about my identity as a hijabi woman and my right to do what I love. And if I were American, then my right to be a citizen. So I don't mind if people see it as a message.”
These women are proving that cosplay is an unlimited hobby as long as you’re willing to be creative.
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