By Melanie Elturk
It’s an interesting time to be a hijab-wearing Muslim woman right now. In between flashes of political turmoil on TV, hate crimes, burkini bans and endless condemnation posts on social media, there’s a lot going on in the life of a “hijabi” these days. Despite learning how to navigate this tricky landscape, I’m optimistic. At no other time in recent memory has it been so amazing to be a woman in hijab. We’re that cool diverse face that mainstream big hitters like H&M, Dolce & Gabbana and YouTube are putting in their ad campaigns. We dress amazingly well thanks to the plethora of options when it comes to modest dressing – just search “hijab tutorial” on YouTube and you’ll get a quarter of a million results – and counting.
More and more, we’re no longer seen as weak, voiceless or my personal favorite – oppressed. Hijab wearing women are proving to the world that the exact opposite is true. We’re strong, vocal and yes, empowered. I know I’m not the only one who beamed with pride as hijab-wearing American Ibtihaj Muhammad brought home bronze at the 2016 Olympics. We all cheered on MasterChef’s Season 6 favorite Amanda Saab as she broke all our hearts with her tearful goodbye. We lovingly watched Mariam Jalloul deliver a heartfelt commencement speech to her fellow Harvard graduates at her 2016 commencement.
This past week at New York Fashion Week was no different. In my front row seat, the lights dimmed and I wondered to myself whether Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan would actually show her designs at New York Fashion Week the way she did at Istanbul Modest Fashion Week – in head to toe hijab. Lights up, music on – the first model walked onto the runway. There she was, in full-on hijab and what a sight to see. Model after model in full hijab – in a stunning array of metallic and pastel hues, intricate lace, embellishments and plenty of traditional Indonesian jacquard fabric.
There was something electric in the room that night. Attending show after show with models baring skin for the upcoming Spring/Summer ‘17 season, the striking contrast of Anniesa’s designs were noteworthy to even the most nonchalant of observers. We all knew we were witnessing something groundbreaking. That night, Anniesa made history as the first Muslim designer to showcase all her designs on a NYFW main stage in full-on, head-to-toe hijab.
The implications behind this show are enormous. While many think fashion is frivolous, I believe in the power of fashion. It’s a form of non-verbal expression of our identity and values. And it’ll be one of the many outlets in which we make a cultural shift in today’s society to normalize hijab in America – to break down stereotypes and demystify misconceptions. Anniesa’s show was a huge leap in that direction. We need to be present in all disciplines – not just medicine and engineering, but politics, entertainment, journalism, and yes, even fashion. The arts, more than anything defines a culture. And if we’re left out of that conversation, what does that say about our role in American culture? Well, nothing. Which is exactly the problem.
As hijab is introduced more and more into mainstream culture by way of fashion through commercials, magazine ads, and mannequins at the mall, to the rest of American society, hijab (and Muslims as a result) will slowly start to become familiar; less foreign. The inherent other-ness associated with hijab, and even fear, will slowly start to dissipate. It will be replaced by a notion of awareness built on the concept that we are part and parcel of the American cultural mosaic.
The audience, overwhelmingly not Muslim, showed their affection with a standing ovation at the end of the show. “I’d wear a hijab just to walk my dog!” exclaimed one excited onlooker, who like me, was in awe of the beauty we just witnessed. Fashion is universal. It speaks to everyone, regardless of race or religion. The implications of this groundbreaking show are poignant in today’s political and social climate. In the midst of anti-Muslim rhetoric, Anniesa’s trailblazing show informs the world that we are here and that we have a significant contribution to make to fashion. It showed the world that Muslim women are not slowing down, that we’re proud to hold onto our beliefs and take part in society. We’re not sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the world to become a better place. We’re making our mark on society informed by the wisdom of the Quran and the example of our beloved Prophet . If not us, who?
Melanie Elturk is the CEO of Haute Hijab, one of the largest U.S. brands for modest fashion. Melanie aims to empower hijab-wearing women worldwide, and in addition to her fashion line, she facilitates support for those struggling with hijab. She has propelled Haute Hijab from a cult favorite to a household name with a loyal following and dynamic social media presence. She is a regular contributor on ELLE.com, has been featured in the New York Times, NBC Today, CBS News, USA Today, Buzzfeed and others. She is an industry expert in modest fashion and has spoken in Malaysia, Italy, Nigeria, Istanbul and across America.
Loving Muslim Marriage Episode #2: Do Women Desire Sex?
In this episode, we ask an obvious question with what seems like an obvious answer – do women need sex? Obviously, yes.
If that’s the case though, then why is expressing a sexual need, or seeking help for sexual issues such a taboo in Muslim cultures?
Loving Muslim Marriage | Is it Haraam to Talk About Sex?
Female sexual nature and female sexual desires are often misunderstood, especially among Muslims. There are some classes and seminars by Muslim speakers that offer advice to Muslim couples about intimacy but unfortunately, the advice is not exactly aligned with correct female sexual nature.
So we decided to come together to clarify these misunderstandings and explain the sexual nature of women and their desires, so we can help build healthy intimacy within Muslim marriages leading to happier Muslim marriages.
This is going to be a series of videos that we will release every week, inshaAllah.
What should be expected out of these videos?
Each video will address a specific myth or misconception about either female sexuality, or Muslim marriage to help men better understand women. We will also explore male sexuality and other subjects.
– to help better quality marriage
– to help couples- both men and women- get a more satisfying intimate life
– to help women navigate intimate life in a manner where they are fulfilled, paving the way for involvement and desiring of intimacy; breaking the cycle of unsatisfying intimate lives for both husband and wife
Please keep in mind that these videos are for people with normal sexual desires — they are not meant to address asexuality.
The content of these videos is a mean to provide marital advice based on mainstream orthodoxy as well as best practices and relationships.
Some experts joined us in these videos to offer their expertise from an Islamic and professional perspective:
Shaikh AbdulNasir Jangda: He was born and raised in Dallas, Texas and at the age of 10 began the road to knowledge by moving to Karachi, Pakistan, and memorizing the entire Qur’an in less than one year. After graduating from high school, he continued his studies abroad at the renowned Jamia Binoria and graduated from its demanding seven-year program in 2002 at the top of his class with numerous licenses to teach in various Islamic Sciences. Along with the Alim Course he concurrently completed a B.A. and M.A. in Arabic from Karachi University. He also obtained a Masters in Islamic Studies from the University of Sindh. He taught Arabic at the University of Texas at Arlington from 2005 to 2007. He served as the Imam at the Colleyville Masjid in the Dallas area for three years. He is a founding member and chairman of Mansfield Islamic Center.
He is the founder of Qalam Institute and he has served as an instructor and curriculum advisor to various Islamic schools. His latest projects include Quran Intensive (a summer program focusing on Arabic grammar and Tafsir), Quranic analysis lectures, Khateeb Training, chronicling of the Prophetic Biography, and personally mentoring and teaching his students at the Qalam Seminary.
In these videos, Sh. Jangda helped present the Islamic rulings and corrections of various misconceptions regarding intimacy and female sexuality.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed: He is a Board Certified Psychiatrist with 18 years of teaching experience at various medical schools. He started off his career by teaching at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York as a Psychiatrist in 1971. Then he started his own private practice in 1984 till the present time. Meanwhile, he continued to teach at various universities around the U.S.
He is also the Chairman of MCC Human Services in North Texas.
In these videos, Dr. Basheer explained several psychological conditions that women may suffer through when they are sexually dissatisfied in a marriage.
Zeba Khan: She is the Director of Development for MuslimMatters.org, as well as a writer, speaker, and disability awareness advocate.
She helped address the uncomfortable myths and misconceptions throughout these videos and helped provide the correct perspective of female and marital intimacy for Muslim couples to enjoy a better marriage.
Usman Mughni: He is a Marriage & Family Therapist and holds a Master’s of Science degree
Northern Illinois University and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, along with a degree in diagnostic medical imaging. He worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in the Center for Addiction Medicine. Usman has experience providing counseling to individuals, couples, and families at Northern Illinois University’s Family Therapy Clinic along with experience working with individuals, couples, and families struggling with chemical dependency and mental health diagnoses and running psychoeducational group therapy at Centegra Specialty Hospital’s partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs.
Since Usman enjoys working with couples to help bring tranquility back into the marriage and providing premarital counseling to couples who hope to have a successful marriage at a time when divorce seems to be on the rise, he especially joined us in this series to offer his expertise. He highlighted the most common intimacy issues in Muslim marriages that he has observed throughout the years of his experience as a therapist. His insights and knowledge has helped us clarify many misconceptions not only regarding female sexual nature but also about men and marital intimacy.
Ustadha Saba Syed: She has a BA degree in Islamic Studies. She studied Arabic Language and Literature at Qatar University and at the Cairo Institute in Egypt. She also received her Ijaazah in Quranic Hafs recitation in Egypt from Shaikh Muhammad al-Hamazawi.
She’s been passionately working towards empowering Muslim women through the correct and untainted teachings of Islam. She is a pastoral counselor for marriage, family, women and youth issues. She has hosted several Islamic lectures and weekly halaqas in different communities all over U.S and overseas. SHe also hosted special workshops regarding parenting, Islamic sex-ed, female sexuality, and marital intimacy.
She took the initiative of putting together these videos because through her pastoral counseling experience she realized that there are many marital intimacy problems in Muslim marriages, mainly due to the misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding female sexuality and female sexual nature.
Hence, with the speakers above, and with these videos we hope to clarify and explain as many myths and misconceptions that we believe have become a hindrance to happiness and success in Muslim marriages. We welcome your comments and suggestions in order to make this series more successful.
Prayers Beyond Borders Offers Hope to Separated Families
On the border of San Diego, California and Tijuana, Mexico, several families live their lives torn apart—they were born on the wrong side of a wall. Now, faith groups are joining together to give them hope through prayer. Since the Mexican-American War in 1848, the boundary that divided the two countries transformed from an imaginary line, to a monument, to a simple barb-wire fence where people on either side could meet, greet, hold hands, or exchange a warm smile, to a heavily monitored steel wall stretching across almost 15 miles between San Diego and Tijuana.
In recent years, crime, drug trafficking, an influx of undocumented workers, and increasingly white nationalism created stricter immigration policies in the U.S., directly impacting those who live straddling both sides of the border. Included in these are families whose loved ones have been deported – parents, spouses, children, and other relatives – to Mexico, undocumented workers providing for their families, and relatives who have not made physical contact with each other in years, sometimes decades. They gather along the steel mesh barriers of the border wall at Friendship Park to touch each other’s fingertips and pray.
The documentary, “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” produced by CAIR California, MoveOn, and Beyond Borders Studios captured some of these emotive moments during a Sunday prayer service held by the Border Church in partnership with the Border Mosque. Christians and Muslims came together in solidarity at Friendship Park on September 30, 2019, and held a joint bilingual ceremony, led by Reverend John Fanestil, Pastor Guillermo Navarrete, Imam Taha Hassane, and Imam Wesley Lebrón.
Imam Lebrón, National Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for WhyIslam, witnessed the nightmare families separated at the border endure when he was invited to participate in this first meeting of the Border Church and Border Mosque. As a Puerto Rican, U.S. born citizen who never experienced the hardships of immigration, he was moved by what he witnessed. He said,
“I entered Mexico and reached the border at Friendship Park and immediately noticed families speaking to each other through the tiny spaces of an enormous metal wall. They were not able to touch except for their fingers, which I later learned was the way they kissed each other.”
He described families discussing legal matters and children crying because they could not embrace a parent who traveled for days only to speak to them briefly behind the cold steel mesh partition.
“Walls are meant to provide refuge and safety from the elements and they are not meant to prevent human beings from having a better life,” he explained, “As I stood behind that wall, I felt hopeless, angry, and had many other mixed emotions for our Mexican brethren who have been completely stripped of the opportunities many of us take for granted.” During the service he addressed the crowd gathered on the Mexican side of Friendship Park and recited the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer. It was the first time the call was heard in Friendship Park, but not the last.
The Border Church and Border Mosque will continue to provide a joint service on the last Sunday of every month and are calling for a binational day of prayer on Sunday, October 27th. They will be joined by Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and indigenous spiritual leaders to “Pray Beyond Borders.” The event will be filmed and possibly live-streamed to a global audience with the objective of raising awareness and requesting financial support to address issues related to family separation in the region.
On October 7th CAIR California with MoveOn, Faith in Action, MPower Change, and a social media team and distribution partners released the film “A Prayer Beyond Borders,” With the digital launch of this film in English and Spanish they wish to reach millions of viewers in telling the story of the Border Church and the Border Mosque and bring more faith leaders and activists on board to protect families’ right to gather. Please join them at Pray Beyond Borders – A Binational Day of Prayer – Sunday, October 27th at Friendship Park.
“when the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17 – NIV).
“And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah ]” (Qur’an 2:45)