How Instagrammers Are Reinventing the Hijab

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Earlier this summer, Hipster Hijabis blogger Summer Albarcha caused a stir when she posted a photo of herself wearing a skirt from Orthodox Jewish boutique Mimu Maxi. But, even if some of Mimu’s clients bristled at the image — criticizing the store for reposting an image of a Muslim woman during the escalating conflict in Gaza — the controversy ended up opening a lot of people’s minds to the idea of “modest dressing,” not as a tool of oppression, but as something empowering and even, yes, stylish. “It actually reveals a person's true character and ideas as an individual,” Albarcha told Refinery29 in a recent interview.

Indeed, Albarcha isn’t the only one schooling the Internet in haute hijabis. As the New York Times reports, a growing number of 20- to 30-year-old Muslim women have turned to social media in an attempt to reinvent the hijab. There’s Ascia Sarrha — a Kuwaiti American whose Instagram shows her rocking her turban along with such brands as Diesel and BCBG; Yasemin Kanar — a Florida-based entrepreneur whose hijab-styling YouTube videos have been viewed more than a million times; and the online community Mipsterz (short for Muslim hipsters), whose video of Muslim women skateboarding in headscarves to Jay-Z went viral in December.

Of course, as with anything dealing with religion and feminism and fashion, there is some controversy, with commenters telling these women that “they should be at home with their husband instead of on the Internet,” according to the Times. And then there’s the question of appropriation — does making the hijab fashionable strip the garment of its religious meaning?

But, those seem like small issues. The hijabi movement isn’t just concerned with fashion; it has bigger fish to fry — including challenging Western stereotypes and assumptions about Islam and religious dress, and maintaining Muslim values in an increasingly globalized world. Maybe it's time for the world to get used to a real kind of Muslim womanhood — one in which modesty and skate videos are not mutually exclusive.