Young, Bright Things

By Rania Emara, Author of Hijab is Fab!

If I had a dollar for every "tsk” I heard from community aunties growing up as a young, Muslim girl, I’d be rolling in the money today. You wouldn’t think a scarf, jeans, and watermelon Lipsmackers at a Muslim Youth Conference would warrant “tsking”, but of course, that was then. Back then, you were a rebel if you wore blue nail polish to Sunday school.

Fast forward to today’s Muslim girl, growing up in a selfie world of Insta moments, instant noodles, and instant gratification. Muslim fashion bloggers rocking this season’s stilettos. Muslim beauty influencers in bold, red lipstick. Hijabistas in all their luxe, haute couture fashion glory.

In the world we live in today, the modern Muslim girl hangs out with friends at Central Park instead of watching them on TV reruns. Today’s Muslim girl is fierce, and she knows exactly what she wants and how she’ll get it by the time she’s 14.

And I love it. I love that Muslim girls growing up today have the world at their gelish fingertips. I love that they can embrace their relationship with Allah and wear hijab, without it hindering them from dreaming big dreams or living in the limelight.

So, when the time came to choose images for my new book, Hijab is Fab, naturally I chose to celebrate the beauty, independence, and diversity that is today’s modern Muslim girl, with real life snapshots of hijab from around the world. The characters I’m currently dreaming up in my head as I work on my first young adult novel are hijab wearing fashionistas. Because I want to give Muslim girls their day in the sun. This is their moment.

But as these young, bright things have taken center stage, blogging and instagramming on everything from makeup tutorials to luxury vacations, not everyone is a fan of trending hijabis. A new wave of critics has emerged, critical of everything on hijabis from too-bright lipstick (or any lipstick at all) to too-tight pants (or pants in general). We all know the age of technology has given rise to super scrutiny and cyber bullying, and hijabistas are not immune to this.

As they push the boundaries of tradition and conservatism, modern Muslim girls are bombarded with negativity, over analysis, and criticism at every turn and with every post. And surprisingly, more often than not, these comments are coming from our Muslim, hijab wearing sisters. Mothers. Frenemies. Trolls that make your tsk-ing neighborhood Auntie look as harmless as a little lamb.

But in the words of the eternal Taylor Swift, “the players gonna play, play, play and the haters gonna hate, hate, hate”. While some critics will comment with the best of intentions (you will recognize them as the ones that PM you instead of publicly reproaching you), ironically others will err themselves as they try to take you down.

We all strive for perfection; in our grades, in our jobs, in our relationships. So by all means we should strive for perfection in our religion as well. But recognize that each person’s journey on this Earth is different than the next person. No two souls are exactly alike, so how can we not look different on the outside?

Let’s take off the gloves and keep our eyes on the prize. Muslim girls are on the rise. In hijab, niqab, turban or pashmina, we have arrived. Let’s celebrate this. These are our sisters, mothers, daughters. Let’s raise them up, not put them down.

So, the next time you see a Muslim girl in hijab rocking knee-high Prada boots over jeans and it’s not your thing, just shake it off. Resist the urge to judge her and instead recognize and celebrate the beauty and strength within her. In the words of the fierce yet ever graceful Michelle Obama, “when they go low, we go high.”

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