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Research Project

Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova

Muslim British Women: mixing modernity and western fashion with Islamic values

The main interest of the research is a resurgence of a new trend called hijabistas, based on larger cultural references. It is about young Muslim women born and grew in the UK and so influenced by mainstream culture. This phenomenon reflects an appearance of distinct cultural features of second and third generation and emulation of specific British Muslim identity. Nevertheless the hybridization of cultural references and formation of Muslim identity freed from ethnic norms. This process was called as pop Islam by German scholar and journalist Julia Gerlach, designing so young Muslim born in the Western countries who are less or not at all concerned by country of their parents and put more importance on the religion, freed from tribal and ethnic customs. Moreover the question of hijab reveals a generation gap in measure when women of older generation were not use to wear hijab. They may fear the reaction of refusal from the part of the society, unlike [t]he generation of young Muslim women born and bred in Europe is viewing the hijab not as a barrier to integration, but as a means of integrating, as it provides them with modesty and a sense of identity both for themselves and for others. (Theodore, Rabiha, 2011) Analysing Muslim women (fashion) blogs has double interest; in the first place, it shows at which extent Muslim women integrate into society and how they adapt to the mainstream culture while keeping Muslim values, mainly the notion of modesty and its various interpretations and applications, and observing religious practices like pray or fast, secondly in which way the difference (in this case hijab) may be considered as element of identity. There is also feminist aspect, because Muslim women happened to be twice discriminated, at the first place like women and secondly as Muslims. Moreover the clothes play an important role of self-identification in each society. It helps to mark social hierarchy, distance oneself from another and affirm ones personality or on the contrary identify oneself with certain group of people. The cloths so may mark ones identification to specific group or community but also functions to model ones distinct style and definition of oneself as editors of French blog Hijab and the City, Mariame and 1

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova Kadija Tighanimine say [t]here is no Muslim woman but different kinds of women with various motivations and personalities. To examine the integration and British Muslim identity through fashion, it is essential to wonder what very Islamic dress code is. Furthermore, as Islam likewise all religion is seen as highly spiritual and fashion something a priori futile and without deeper sense a phrase Islamic fashion may be seen as contradiction and something incongruous. The paradox is not as great as it can seem at the first sight the Islam requires a modest dress as it can be illustrated by hadiths meanwhile there is no clear prescription as to a concrete form of women dress. The definition of modest clothing so may be diverse going from simple hijab and loose clothes to complete covering like jilbab or niqab. The wearing of veil is debated even within Muslim communities. There is not clear word to word prescription for woman to cover her hair, though it is considered as obligation by majority of scholars. Whatever the veil has taken the political dimension due to the international conflicts affecting Muslim countries such as Palestine, Iraq and others. New converts adopts in many cases the veil as sign and affirmation of new identity and to show their conversion. Indeed veil may be interpreted in many ways, for some women it can be liberating and symbol of freedom because they get rid of excessive pressure of western societies given to appearance. It can be actually an expression of desire to claim ones religion or political claim, as it may be case with keffiyeh, traditional peasant Palestinian scarf which has been displayed by different kinds of militants as a symbol of resistance. Last not least keffiyeh has been taken over by fashion industry and so diverted from its original function and its symbolic. The hijabi is not uniquely British trend, a blogs concerning hijab and how to concile modern style living with limits imposed by modesty mushroomed also in France. The most significant is Hijab and the City, edited by two sisters of the Maghreb origin, wearing hijab. Claiming their hijab as a free choice and outcome of intellectual proceeding Muslim women are changing the perception of westerners who consider the veil as symbol of oppression and means of male power over women. Considered by many as the symbol of religious fundamentalism and division within the Western societies, veiled women face to number of prejudices, especially after 9/11 and 7/7 attacks. 2

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova But the resurgence of veil is not limited only to European Muslim indeed the veil is much more present in Muslim countries, especially in Egypt than it was case some decades ago. This if we want islamization is treated by Leila Ahmed, who was the first professor of Women's Studies in Religion at Harvard University in her work Quiet evolution. Often university educated, veiled women may be considered in certain way as feminist in a sense that they reject the western consumable way of using a woman body in advertising sphere for example and general over exposure of sexuality in public domain. Cover in order to be respected for ones own personality is the recurrent claim. The motivation for wearing veil can be so various, influenced by personal experience, familial background or other external factors. The youths tackle with the image which is given by media about a Muslim community. The young Muslim designers show that faith does not impeach a creation. Moreover an internet has given a great space to expression and easier access to the targeted public. The blogs dealing with a way how to transform Muslim womens requires to cloth to something modern and more actual appear as well lifestyle online magazines like Emel or Daily Hijabi, which have a similar graphics as mainstream nonMuslim e-magazines, with such sections as fashion, health, relationship, etc., they also advertise fashion designers or brands. The designers as Hana Tajima (Style Covered) edit their own blogs in order to better communicate with potential customers and put forward their ideas, concepts and visions. Internet so gave a space to the Muslim to express for themselves and not be represented by media in a way which may not correspond to them. The importance of different hijabi fashionista blogs so lies also in their outspoken character and possibility given to women to participate. The visibility which cyberspace provides is helps to develop it is underlined in report Modest Dressing: Faith Based Fashion and Internet Retail worked out by Reina Lewis, professor at the London College of Fashion, which treats the role which internet plays in resurgence of modest clothing not only in Muslim community. The cultural renewal linked with return to the religion highlighted the potential held by young generation of Muslims and their positive contribution to the society, moreover if the arts are concerned it proves that Islam does not impeach a creation 3

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova rather inverse. In the fashion the use of bright colours and original shapes challenges an austere image of Islamic dress. There is a clear reference to the mainstream culture and a way in which new generation takes a root in the British popular culture. This is in the frame of the great cultural and ethnic diversity that young Muslims and designers try to merge a popular culture and integrate within and in the same time an endeavour to preserve and claim a specific culture and belief. They express also a lack of adapted cloths to the young generation of Muslims who want integrate into mainstream society as editor of blog Hijab Style Jana Kossibian says, young Muslims are increasingly looking for fashion that doesnt set them apart from the rest of the society, but at the same time assert their faith and its specificity. There is a clear want of offer of trendy and modest clothes that pushed designers to create their own clothing line for lack of offer as designer Sarah Elenany witness, as a Muslim woman I have always found that the only options for me are the traditional Islamic clothes, or buying high-street brands in sizes too big so that I was covered. There was no compromise. explained Elenany. I started to design and make my own clothes and other Muslims began complementing me on them. That was when I realised there is a real demand for Islamic clothing with a modern edge. Designers so reinvent traditional pieces of clothing as abaya in order to make them more trendy and urban better suited to mainstream lifestyle. Her creations are destined to young urban Muslim women, anxious to express ones own personality and free from ethnic dress elements, form through dress code their own specific identity as Muslim and British citizens. Sarah Elenany has middle-east origins (Palestinian, Egyptian), and her work is characterised by modern graphic combined with religious motives. The new graphic symbols are presented each season, a range of motives like heritage, minaret, brotherhood, salaam, dua or testify make clear a Islamic influence, referring to a prayer, whatever the motives are did in a spirit of contemporary design and so wearable also by non-Muslims; that shows a universality and fusion of modesty and modernity in their creations. The similar spirit of the modernity and clearness can be seen in the creations of Hana Tajima, British designer of mixed British-Japanese origin and converted to the Islam. Her brand Masyaa is characterized by pure lines and rather subdued colours like grey, black, white. This universality reflects the position which takes new wave of 4

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova Muslim fashion, fluctuating between two distinct conceptions, indeed there is constant interaction between two worlds as it shows Victoria Beckhams fall-winter collection 2011, where hair covered models appear. Style itself is characterized by pure lines, simplicity, and lightness, though not all models would be satisfactory according to a modesty dress code, there is a common point with Tajimas both sophisticated and pure line collection. The designers or blog editors like Sarah Elenany or Mariame and Kadija Tighanimine (Hijab and The City) challenge an idea of powerless and voiceless Muslim women, proving that even veiled woman can be dynamic part of society and entrepreneur. How Yasmin Hussain writes: The dominant western picture of Muslim womens submissiveness and oppression is far removed from the lived experience of most Muslim women in Britain. The popularity of the hijab among young women has symbolised this assertion of female Muslim identity. Her statement so breaks completely with the idea of imposed wear of Islamic veil by male members of community, nevertheless we can question the influence of the Islamic TV chains and role of modern means of communication. The integration into mainstream can be illustrated also by the trend of environmental concern or if we want boho attitude that is reflecting in creation of some fashion designers (Earth Wear, Eco). It correlates with general awareness concerning an environment and return to the nature in some way. But at the same time it echoes Islamic values concerning to preserve nature. Same environmental concern can be observed in Urban Ummahs creations. They are labelled as fair trade mark that means according to the Fairtrade International: Fairtrade is an alternative approach to conventional trade and is based on a partnership between producers and consumers. Fairtrade offers producers a better deal and improved terms of trade. This allows them the opportunity to improve their lives and plan for their future. Fairtrade offers consumers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping. Brand acts in ethics based on fairness, dignity and sustainable development policy equally corresponding to the Islamic conception of social justice. The values are deeply rooted in the Islamic ethics and morals where care of poor and charity are essential.

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova

Indeed it may be observed through different concepts of fashion designers their attachment to the religion but in the same time the integration of certain cultural references and trends. Through dress code, as well through different cultural phenomena like music or arts may be a medium to explore new Muslim identity of the generation confronted with islamophobia, but proud of their religion, and cultural heritage. The UK-born generation of Muslims questions their religion in a new way reviving concept of free interpretation called ijtihad. The questioning of religion and examining sacred texts provides dynamics and permits to adapt religious requirements to contemporary environment.

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova Annexes

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova Bibliography THEODORE Gabriel, RABIHA Hannan. Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Context, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011, p. 156 HUSSAIN, Yasmin. Writing Diaspora: South Asian Women, Culture and Ethnicity, Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2005, p. 28 Webography ADEWUNMI, Bim. Faith-Based Fashion Takes off Online, The Guardian, 16 June 2011 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jun/16/faith-based-fashion-online>

AKBAR, Arifa, TAYLOR, Jerome. The Many Faces behind the Veil, The Independent, 13 January 2010 <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/the-many-facesbehind-the-veil-1865772.html>

Diana. Coverage of Fashionable Muslim Women Cramps Our Style, Muslimah Media Watch, 19 July 2010 <http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/2010/07/coverage-offashionable-muslim-women-cramps-our-style/>

KHALIL, Shaimaa. Muslim Designers Mix the Hijab with Latest Fashion, 14 May 2010 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10105062>

MANZOOR, Sarfran. Muslim Schoolgirls show that faith and Fashion Are Not http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jul/21/muslim-schoolgirls-islamic-fashioncourse

Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova MIAH, Nazma. Catwalk Coverage Hijabs on Runway, Muslimness, 3 August 2011 http://www.muslimness.com/2011/08/catwalk-coverage-hijabs-on-runway.html MIRZA, Ghania. Hijab Inspires Haute Couture, The Express Tribune, 16 July 2010 <http://tribune.com.pk/story/28074/hijab-inspires-haute-couture/>

TAYLOR, Jerome. Beautiful and Islamic: The New Look on the Catwalk, The Independent, 2 July 2010 <http://www.independent.co.uk/lifestyle/fashion/news/beautiful-uandu-islamic-the-new-look-on-the-catwalk2016293.html>

Zaufishan. Eco Hijabs on the Rise, What Muslim Fashion Bloggers Have to Contribute, Green Prophet, 24 January 2011 <http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/01/eco-hijabson-rise/>

WALGAMUTH, Erin. Chic Hijab: A New Take on Fashion for Muslims, 9 December 2011 <http://muslimvoices.org/chic-hijab-fashion-muslims/>

Muslim Chic London Designer Helps Islamic Culture Get Fashionable, Science 2.0, 11 January 2011 <http://www.science20.com/news_articles/muslim_chic_london_designer_helps_islami c_culture_get_fashionable>

http://www.emel.com/article?id=92&a_id=2485&c=2

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Research Project
Muslim British Women: Mixing Modernity and Western Fashion with Islamic Values Lucie Kundlova Blogs http://www.altmuslimah.com/a/b/wba/3707/ http://dailyhijabi.com/blog/ http://www.hijabstyle.co.uk/ http://www.stylecovered.com/

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