In the West, the hijab has been an object of fascination and scrutiny by people all across the ideological spectrum. Even today, the debate about whether the hijab is a form of oppression or liberation rages on. But what these conversations often lack is the participation of Muslim women in them; even as we discuss what the headscarf represents, we tend to leave out the voices of the very people who don them.
Enter Muslim Girl, an alternative media source for and by Muslim women whose efforts to include their voices in these conversations is an attempt to change public perception of their religion and culture.
"Since 9/11, corporate media has been obsessed with Muslim women while very rarely giving Muslim women the mic to speak on their own behalf," Amani Alkhat of Muslim Girl told A Plus via email. "This perpetuates the stereotypes and cultural and religious inaccuracies that we are all too familiar with today: notions like Muslim women being docile, oppressed, or voiceless."
The site's latest video, "100 Years of Hijab Fashion," is an example of how it's trying to reclaim their narrative. The video mirrors other clips of popular fashion trends throughout the past century — except this one shows how hijab styles reflect the changing political climate in various countries in the Middle East.
1920s — Kurdistan
A description on the Muslim Girl website reads:
"The hijab is much more than a fad. While more and more businesses are seeing it as a lucrative commodity, the headscarf is a religious garment just as much as a political one. For generations, it has been a powerful symbol of Muslim women's defiance against the male gaze, colonialism, and Islamophobia as we know it today. It's also become a politicized garment that represents Muslim women's control and autonomy, and has been at the center of a tug-of-war between governments and the people for its reclamation. We made a video focusing on the hijab in the most controversial region in the world to reinsert the nuance of the hijab's history, strength, and tension into today's fad headlines."
1930s — Palestine
"Today's foreign policy is overwhelmingly based on these misconceptions [about Islam], much to the detriment of Muslim communities both domestically and abroad," Alkhat said. "It's been a legacy of Western presumptions that a lot of scholarship, media, literature, music and film have perpetuated."
1970s — Iran
In reference to the video's subject matter, Alkhat added:
The conversations about hijabs and Muslim women are imperative to cultural and religious understanding.