Will Halima Aden’s detour from the world’s most prestigious runways regress the growing number of hijabi models in the fashion industry?
Or will it open doors for more?
Halima Aden’s emergence stirred up a debate from the day she stepped on the pageant stage, to her appearance on the runways, to landing on the front cover of predominantly skimpily- clad- dominated Sports Illustrated magazine, to her current announcement of quitting the fashion runways. Despite wearing a headcover wherever she appears, Halima, admittedly said that in several instances she did not feel comfortable. The fashion world’s glamour and prestige, had put to test her faith as a covered Muslim woman. But in such a short time, a span of 4 years more or less, she made an icon of herself.
To reckon, she and her Somali family who came from a Kenyan refugee camp, immigrated to the US in 2003. It was a life- changing move not only for her family but most of all- her. Although she struggled wearing the hijab growing up especially while attending school, but it eventually paid off when she started getting recognition for it. Her persistence to wear her Muslim identity led her to become the first semi-finalist contestant to wear a head cover in Miss Minnesotta USA, a precursor pageant for Miss USA. Even though it sparked controversy among Muslims, her move encouraged other hijabi girls to join beauty pageants later on. In 2018, a Malaysian- born Nurul Shamsul competed with hijab in New Zealand Miss Universe. Recently in Britain, Sarah Iftekhar also joined the Miss Britain pageant following Muna Juma from 2017.
After Halima debuted in the fashion world, other hijab- wearing models like Mariam Idrissi, Shahira Yusuf, Ikram Abdi Omar, Ruba Zai, Amina Adan, Ugbad Abdi, Feriel Moulai frequents the runways of big fashion brands. It is a game changer for the once- vilified head cover to accepted as a fashion trend, and the ones wearing them as humans who are free.
When we read the stories and motivations of these girls, it come to the bottom line that their only purpose to send a message that they are just like any other girls. They have talents, intellect, and beauty to be compete with the rest of the world, but, that this is how they dress.
Although it is still a taboo among majority of muslims, these new generation of “westernized” Muslims are unstoppable. Yet, there are boundaries of the religion which become a common obstacle for girls like Halima and others. They argue that their purpose is to integrate their own community with that of the society they live in. By participation and not by seclusion. There are those who will see the plight of these girls as a selfless act, as they sacrificed their own peace of mind for the good of their people, but there are those who see this as a sign of disobedience and ignorance.
But how much of the religious boundaries can one sacrifice for self- worth? Or for the common good? Is it really helping the Muslim community? Are we fashion- forward enough? How much of the religion does fashion want to accept and vice versa?