It appears that we are officially living in wild times. Every day, it seems, there’s a new threat to our liberty – in the United States of America!! – a country founded on freedom. No longer is that “mighty woman with a torch” the Mother of Exiles, her beacon-hand glowing worldwide welcome. No. In today’s world, our newly elected officials speak of building walls, deporting immigrants, and instituting a Muslim database, referencing our horrific history of Japanese internment as a precedent. For the record, this isn’t the first time this idea of a national registry has been floated – it’s quite similar to the failed Bush Era NSEERS program. So, there’s that. But, the fact that we keep returning to this idea that all Muslims are evil is beyond concerning to me. To blur the lines between Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other jihadist groups with the entirety of Islam is, very simply, ignorant. The word Islam literally translates to peace. The facts demonstrate that Muslim societies are among the least violent in the world. I understand fear, though. After all, I’m fearful of our burgeoning administration! Since the best way to combat fear is with knowledge, I thought I would explore a few positive stories about Islamic women blazing trails amidst/despite all of this madness.
First, did you know…
- According to a 2009 Pew Research Center comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries, there are 1.57 billion Muslims of all ages living in the world, representing 23% of an estimated 2009 world population of 6.8 billion.
- While Muslims are found on all five inhabited continents, more than 60% of the global Muslim population is in Asia and about 20% is in the Middle East and North Africa.
- More than 300 million Muslims, or one-fifth of the world’s Muslim population, live in countries where Islam is not the majority religion.
- These minority Muslim populations are often quite large. India, for example, has the third-largest population of Muslims worldwide. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined.
- Of the total Muslim population, 10-13% are Shia Muslims and 87-90% are Sunni Muslims. Most Shias (between 68% and 80%) live in just four countries: Iran, Pakistan, India and Iraq. There also are a few Muslim groups that are difficult to classify as either Sunni or Shia. These include Kharijites in Oman and the Nation of Islam movement in the United States, as well as the Druze, who are located primarily in and around Lebanon.
Plus, 30 more facts.
Thanks to a petition from Rayouf Alhumedhi, a 15-year-old Saudi-German girl, the next release from Unicode will include a woman in hijab emoji. Alhumedhi’s 7-page proposal detailed the value and impact of equal representation, noting that, “The headscarf gives me power.” She also pointed out that head coverings aren’t unique to Islam. Women in Eastern Orthodox Christian faiths and some conservative Jewish communities could also benefit from having a headscarf emoji to represent themselves virtually.
The proposal caught the eye of Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian who said of Alhumedhi, “[She’s] easily among the most impressive 15-year-olds I’ve met… [An] emoji may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one more way for a lot of people to feel acknowledged and represented ― and that’s a good thing.”
CoverGirl recently announced another first: its debut CoverGirl in a hijab! Nura Afia, 24, a Colorado native, first started watching online beauty tutorials in 2011 while breast-feeding her baby daughter, Laila. Afia eventually began creating tutorials of her own and now has more than 217,000 YouTube channel subscribers and 13 million views…plus, a CoverGirl contract!
“Frankly, I feel proud to be part of a movement that is showing the hijab in a positive light for once. The more of us who can wear them as representatives of these big household names on TV or billboards the better,” she said. “It’s about them finally showing us that they know we are beautiful, too.”
This year, New York Fashion Week made history with their first all-hijab fashion show. Indonesian fashion designer Anniesa Hasibuan hosted a runway show featuring 48 outfits, all with gorgeous hijabs. Though Westerners have viewed the hijab as “otherness,” the style has been regarded as extremely fashion forward in other parts of the world. Melanie Elturk, chief executive of Haute Hijab wrote, “I believe fashion is one of the outlets in which we can start that cultural shift in today’s society to normalize hijab in America so as to break down stereotypes and demystify misconceptions. Last night’s show was a huge leap forward in that direction.” Beautiful.
Does My Head Look Big in This? – Randa Abdel-fattah
Veiled Voices – Brigid Maher