America’s First Hijab Design Competition Turns Tradition on its Head

American Hijab Design Competition, Fashion, Islam, Muslim, Sarah Musa, Yasmeen SabirIt’s true that a preponderance of Muslim women are shrouded in unflattering chadors and hijabs that hardly permit a crack of light, but American women are turning to more fashionable (and environmentally friendly) ways to achieve the modesty called upon by their Islamic faith.

Founded in order to promote a culture of peace and tolerance in the United States by human rights attorney Shaz Kaiseruddin, the inaugural hijab design competition held in Chicago over the weekend was a huge hit. From elaborate coral arrangements to wraps piled high on models’ heads, the show turned out a surprising variety of 21st century hijabs that both honor and turn tradition on its head.

American Hijab Design Competition, Fashion, Islam, Muslim, Sarah Musa, Yasmeen Sabir

Sarah Musa, second from the left, won the grand design for the camel quilted ensemble worn by her sister standing right next to her.

Sold out to a diverse audience, the design competition had a star-studded panel of judges that included such luminaries as designer Nailah Lymus, who was dressed for the occasion in a wild, avant-garde outfit, Parsons Professor Shireen Soliman and Dr. Aminah McCloud, a Muslim American scholar.

“Derek Khan, America’s Next Top Model guest judge, was the biggest critic of the group-which was an essential role” said Shaz, whose dream it was to show that hijabs are as “American as blue jeans.”

“The event showed that the hijab does not have to be an after-thought, consisting of just a color matched scarf.  It can be integrated into the attire, enhancing the overall look and elegance,” her father added.

The design competition was open to non-designers to present their American-styled hijab and styles and promotes an end to the violence, hatred and discrimination that Muslims often face in the United States.

“Seeing my dream become a reality made me want to help everyone experience the same and pray everyone has a team that will help push them past naysayers,” Shaz said in a recent press release.

She received particular support from her husband and father, Ahmed Minhaj and Mohammed Kaiseruddin.

The grand prize was awarded to New York’s Sarah Musa, whose design included an entire ensemble that makes the traditional Arab scarf look like a table cloth.

A quilted camel-colored shirtdress hangs over slim pants while the head covering consists of a turtleneck with a head cap – almost like a hoody but much more classy. The outfit modeled by Musa’s sister, who does not normally cover herself, is completed with a pair of boots.

Yasmeen Sabir won the style component for a tropical scarf coupled with a coral motorcycle jacket, boyfriend jeans, a yellow cardigan, and gravity-defying blue heels .

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17 thoughts on “America’s First Hijab Design Competition Turns Tradition on its Head”

  1. Rosa Floce says:

    The purpose of the hijab is modesty. Wearing a “fashionable” hijab will attract attention. therefore it is not in the spirit of wearing the hijab. It basically defeats the purpose. If a muslimah doesn’t want to wear a hijab then more power to her. If she does want to wear a hijab, then more power to her. But wearing a “fashionable” hijab, or any kind of attractive clothes, make up, manicure pedicure etc, that’s just not in the spirit of modesty. Be true to yourself woman, don’t be lying to yourself.

  2. Ayesha-Allison says:

    When I attend the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jalsa each year, the one thing that I have never seen is a sea of black. Many women are sewing their own dignified coats and shopping for pretty patterns that look very modern. We also order coats from Rabwah in Pakistan. The styles vary every year. I have one of everything for variety. Still, I love the creative drive behind this fashion show. We can observe purdah and look beautiful.

  3. Sunny says:

    Love this!! Wish they brought this competition to where I live. And to all the haters with their comments above, if you’re so against hijab why click on this article and read it in the first place?! Remember, what you resist persists. No ones forcing you to wear hijab so if you don’t have anything nice to say, shut the hell up. To Shaz Kaiseruddin – keep it up!! Great idea!! Glad it was so successful Alhamdulilah.

    1. Hedi says:

      coming from a Muslim woman, telling complete strangers to ‘shut the hell up’ sounds like a rather uneducated comment. No one cares is women wear hijab or not (except in America where for the most part people are afraid of religion and anything that might compomise American libertites and freedom) however, I think the point here is that if a Muslim woman wants to cover her head, it is pointless to make a flowering flashing fashionable fad out of it because it defeats the whole purpose of wearing it in the first place!! It is as contadictory as Muslim women who wear colourful scarves and the wear tight jeans showing their back-ended ‘ornaments’ off when they flick themselves in the air during prayer!! Doesn’t anyone undesrtand that making anything fashionable out of a hijab draws more attention and is utterly pointless?? Wear a headscarf! Don’t wear it! Who cares! But wear it for the purpose it is meant for, because every Muslim woman I know who is devout and humble say they wear it to be closer to God, not more fashionable for men to (God forbid) be MORE attracted to them!!

      1. Sunny says:

        At least I’m educated enough to know that it IS written in the Quran (as well as hadith) for a woman to cover herself appropriately (hijab) including her hair – whether or not you do so is between you and Allah but if you don’t, do not justify it by going against the Quran by saying its not written in there.
        And IF it isn’t in the Quran, then I guess most of the Muslim women in the world has misinterpreted it, and you are one of the few who know better.
        I agree my ‘shut the hell up’ comment was uncalled for, I was angered by negative comments towards something that’s meant to be positive, but I could have responded in a better way so my apologies for that.

        1. Hedi says:

          My dear sister,
          all I want to ask you, is what translation of Qu’ran are you reading, because according to the most authenticated translation by Yusuf Ali, there is NO mention in the English translation that a woman must cover her HAIR. NONE WHATSOEVER. If millions of women have misinterpreted the Qu’ran than that is their issue. There are millions more out there who don’t wear it and are devout Muslims and are educated enough to know that modesty is well drawn out in the Qu’ran as it pertains to women AND men, and as far as I know, and as far as what I have read, scholars I have spoken to and so forth, it is not REQUIRED for a woman to cover her head and should keep her modesty in other ways including ‘covering her bosoms’/ I could go on about this for a decade because I have researched it up and down and if we are getting into linguistics about the ‘hijab’ and what it means in Quranic Arabic, then this whole topic needs to be started elsewhere….I already said that I have absolutley no issue with Muslim women who cover their head, I am Muslim and I chose not to, so you should respect me the same way I would respect you except you don’t because a lot of people like you, like to throw Hadiths at everyone, a lot of which are NOT authentic and still push the notion that a Muslim woman is only truly Muslim if she wears a headscarf!! I am sick and tired of hearing this, that’s why I posted about this nonsensical fashion out of hijab thing, and I will say it again, it’s a totally pointless argument!

          1. Ayesha-Allison says:

            Assalam o alaikum! Congratulations on the very first hijab contest. I think it was a wonderful idea! Al humdolilah for all of you who made it happen. This is what we need to do–create positives for ourselves.

            Hedi, This is the interpretation of Mirza Bashiruiddin Mahmood Ahmad on 24:32. He was the second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. His interpretation is based on the key Arabic words: “When they go out, women are to wear an outer and wrapping garment which should cover their heads and bosoms in such a manner that the garment should come down from the head to the bosom covering the whole body including the face. ” (p.1853)

            The Arablic word means 3 things at once: “an outer or wrapping garment; a head covering; the garment with which a woman covers her head and bosom.” (The Holy Quran With English Translation and Commentary, Vol. 4, p.1853)

            The Quran is for everyone. Therefore, while we can now afford matching coats and scarves which look dignified, this looser description allows women with less money to buy a chador or veil to cover themselves with.

            Personally, I feel women can look beautiful and dignified at the same time. We are giving respect to the Holy Prophet when we follow his instructions. That, in turn, earns us blessings. But in the end, the choice is yours.

          2. Hedi says:

            Ayesha-Allison,
            this is what I was talking about. I have never heard of this translation and I have researched many, and until Muslim women are willing to re-educated themselves on a few points than we would all be a lot happier and a lot less oppressed. I am not saying that a woman who chooses to wear hijab would consider herself oppressed, it is society that sees her that way. Why is it always the Muslim women who DON’T wear hijab get landblasted and told that they are basically going to hell if they don’t wear it? I am also aware of the word ‘khimmar’ which is not truly translatable in English but refers to an ancient garment worn by women which was like a giant shawl or wrap and used in the Arabian penninsula. It was used for different purposes according to the climate, sun, sand, etc–protection from both as well as a garment that covered ‘the bosom’. This is how it is translated by Yusuf Ali and there is no where in that translation of the Qu’ran that even mentions the word ‘hair’. So I go by this translation, and any hadith that mentions covering refers to doing so whilst praying (for both men and women). Don’t be angered at my response–everyone has their opinion and is entitled to it. I am tired of this hijab battle and because I design clothing and I am a Muslim woman who chooses not to wear hijab, I am scrutinized by the Muslim community no matter what I do. Therefore, I repeat, making fashion shows out of hijab is totally irritating to me–no offense, but it’s just my opinion!

          3. Ayesha-Allison says:

            Hedi, I see your point. You feel that the hijab puts pressure on you to be the “ideal Muslim woman.” I converted from Christianity, so I think of it as a continuum. When I was ready to wear it, I started wearing the hijab. I have no regrets. I feel happy, actually, because my husband wanted a wife who observed purdah. So, from my point of view, I was not ready for my marriage to him until I got there.

            I really don’t feel that it is my place to judge anyone because I have been on both sides of the fence. I felt I was Muslim when I did not wear a scarf, but I just felt like I had completed my Islam when I decided to wear a scarf. It gives me a feeling of satisfaction that I can put Islam first.

            What I wasn’t prepared for were others reactions to me. You know, sometimes I am just trying to relax and someone is giving me a hate stare. So I am getting the opposite reaction to what you are getting. What they really mean to say is: “Why do you observe purdah?” I think that Islam is on the hot seat. It is a clear religion from a clear book and Christians don’t understand why we would commit to something that hides women.

            Well, I would like to write an article called, “There are no dumb blondes in Islam,” because we are not judged by our hair color.

            In the end, it is your decision.

  4. Areej says:

    First of all, congratulations to the winner of the contest, and the efforts of all involved.

    I think people are very quick to be critical about something without putting themselves in another person’s shoes. While I do hold the opinion that the point of the hijab is to be modest and not be a fashionista icon attracting attention, by no means does that mean that one’s choice of fashion can’t be modest. Yes, modesty in fashion is NOT a taboo. What is so wrong about Muslim women (who have chosen to wear the hijab) trying to find creative alternatives to try to blend in with the rest of society, while still giving them the freedom to fulfill their religious obligations? It’s not about trying to “spread the religion” or expressing ones insecurities. As the article says, this competition was to “present their American-styled hijab and styles and promote an end to the violence, hatred and discrimination that Muslims often face in the United States.” The sad truth is, a woman who covers her head in America is often judged, and if she’s trying to fit in by a means through fashion, then let her. Morally (and constitutionally speaking) that’s her right, just like it’s yours to your opinion of her hijab or of you not covering. Being an American does not mean you can’t be a Muslim (or a Christian, Hindu, Atheist, etc) at the same time. We need to learn to respect that rather than being overly critical. Just my two cents.

  5. Anne Williams says:

    I always wonder why no one mentions how confining it is to have to cover one’s head, keep the hijab in place, never feel the breeze flowing through one’s hair, or the sun on one’s head. Having had to wear a wig during chemotherapy, and having worn scarves in colder weather, I can’t wait to take them off! Why should women be subjected to this because men are TAUGHT catching site of a woman’s hair is just too much for them to handle. We used to have a much better way to handle this using just words: “Just get your MIND out of the GUTTER!”

    1. Allison Knight-Khan says:

      After I decided to cover my hair, one teacher friend remarked to me that she could never do such a thing. She would feel claustrophobic. So, she is not doing that. I am. I can live with it. When I get home, I usually take it off, but it becomes so comfortable that I often find myself running around doing my chores with it still on. I always loved scarves and hats. The men are not taught “that hair is just too much for them to handle.” It was meant to distinguish the righteous believing women from the women who are not righteous and did not believe. According to Islam, the men are taught to observe purdah too. When my husband looks at a woman who observes purdah, he looks down as he talks to her. Recently, while talking to a Christian about charity, I noticed the man checking out my curves despite the fact that I wear a coat and scarf to hide them. It is a man’s nature. We accept that we cannot change all men. All we can do is cover ourselves. I am a Canadian who adopted purdah. My family is Christian. Generations ago, women dressed modestly in public for the same reason. Back then it was probably called common sense.

      1. I think that every woman should choose for herself how to dress in public. The problem I have is when women are more or less forced to cover up. Look at pictures from Egypt in the 50s or 60s and see what’s happened now. Seems like a correlation between forcing women to cover up and increased violence against them, not the opposite.

      2. Hedi says:

        A very well-educated, intelligent man once told me, that ‘little knowledge is dangerous’. That man was my husband. I think a lot of women who call themselves ‘converts’ have little knowledge and tend to focus on the superficial cosmetics of parts of Islam that aren’t really the fundamental cores of what the religion is truly about. Using words such as ‘purdah’ and ‘hijab’ are totally taken out of context in the English language and have been bastardized. Actually, I am suprised that this commentary about this ‘hijab competition’ has lasted this long. But anyhow, I have to reiterate that having a competition about design fashionable hijab is totally pointless and absurd. The reason I say this is because so many women who do wear ‘hijab’ are hypocritical in their manner of dress. Covering the head in a way that attracts more attention to the head or face and then wearing tight jeans or body-hugging fabrics defeats the purpose of ‘modesty’. You can still be a righteous belieiving Muslim woman without having to draw attention to yourself. Too much emphasis is put on cloaking the head or body and not enough on being a good human being and treating others with respect, helping people, educating their children and so forth. Covering of the head has also changed over the centuries and has had different purposes and impact on time. Why were Indian Muslim women in Hyderabad, India for example, wearing saris out and about and nothing else in the 70’s and now those same women are wearing burkas? It is indeed because there is a correlation between forcing women to cover and violence against them in many parts of the world. Having said all this, I still firmly believe that women who chose to cover their heads should do so because they are absolutley sure that it is the right decision for them and for no other reason. You cannot accept Islam or any other religion and cover your head and say your are a devout follower without truly understanding the fundamental tenants of the religion too.

  6. Hedi says:

    As a Muslim woman, who chooses not to wear hijab (since I don’t feel that according to what is written in the Qu’ran, is that a woman is NOT required to cover her head) I feel that making hijab fashionable is totally pointless. If a woman chooses to wear it, it becomes a symbol both culturally and politically. It’s just cosmetics. To cover one’s head envokes a feeling of being humble and in a spiritual moment while praying before God in my opinion. And so when Muslim women want to be trendy or fashionable, they dress themselves up, wear lots of makeup, make their hijabs look like beacons in the sea and so forth. Don’t they realize they are attracting MORE attention to themselves by doing so? Don’t they realize that perhaps men would be more inclined to be attracted to their ‘ornaments’ which are apparently supposed to be subdued? It’s hypocritical and ridiculous. Making fashion out of hijab is absurd. Either keep it simple and wear it for the purpose it is meant for, or don’t wear it and find other ways to dress modestly according to Islamic traditions. And please, don’t compare hijab to anything American for the sake of offending atheiests and nationalists…that too is utterly pointless.

  7. Kim says:

    I am sorry. But hijabs are NOT as “american as blue jeans” and absolutely never will be. I am not religious. America is not a country founded on religion. The first amendment is very clear on our governing document. I do not recognize the validity of any religion whatsoever as is my right as a human being. If you want to wear a hijab, be my guest. But don’t you dare, don’t you DARE spread your religion by trying to normalize it as something which it is not. Just because you like your religion or being forced to abide by all aspects of it, does not make it as American as blue jeans. What is American is the freedom to tell someone, “I refuse to wear your hejab in the first place if I do not wish to wear one”. That is American, and the same goes for all religion. I will no more cover my head in Italy then I would in India. To do so would offend my humanism. I am an artist and clicked onto this page to see design work, not read propaganda about how you need to normalize something which is not normal. If you are so insecure about your hejab, that should tell you something. If you are not insecure with your hejab, then you do not need to sell it as being something that is an everyday American thing. Individual American People invented blue jeans, but ISLAM invented the hejab. Last I checked, WOMEN do not get a choice about it. America doesn’t force me to wear blue jeans. So please watch your comparisons. Why can’t you just let it be what it is and stop trying to pretend it is something it is not…

    1. Rosa Floce says:

      Kim, I bow to you, I’m not worthy 🙂 Well said!

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