Islam and popular culture: an Inside Islam recap

All-American Muslim, a reality TV show we covered in 2011. Photo: TLC

It’s fitting to end Inside Islam where we started. When we first began the project, we focused heavily on Islam in popular culture and media. Our first shows and posts focused on Muslim youth and new media, videobloggers, and even fashion.

Our focus on cultural topics was deliberate. In our efforts to break down stereotypes about Islam, our strategy was to humanize Muslims by showing them engaged in activities non-Muslims could relate to. Popular culture has always cut across cultural and geographic borders, so we focused heavily on the medium. Continue reading

Are faith and fashion compatible?

A piece from Rabia Z.'s collection

One of the most persistent images of Muslim women is the veil, in its many forms. Whether it is hijab, niqab, or burqa, there is an assumption that Muslim women are not concerned with fashion and that they are defined by black clothing and an obsession to cover up. However, designers like Rabia Z. and the debut of Ala Dergi, a Turkish magazine dedicated to hijab fashion,  defy this stereotype and demonstrate that faith can be compatible with fashion.

Rabia Z., of Emirati and Afghani origin, designs with the idea that modesty can still be stylish. Her collections feature colorful long flowing garments that are stylish but are mindful of religious tenets. Rabia’s collections have received international acclaim with shows around the world. In the United States, her clothing was featured in Miami Fashion Week in 2010 and most recently at Casa La Femme in New York. Continue reading

Islam and Fashion: Style Islam

Muslims have used fiction, poetry, and music to relay to the world the message that Islam is about peace and does not condone violence. Fashion is also a medium on that list. Melih Kesmen began Style Islam, an Islamic-themed clothing line, in Germany three years ago and now it is in high demand in Europe and the Middle East.

Kesmen began the project after the Danish cartoon controversy. He wanted to challenge the stereotypes of Islam that were being circulated.  Using hip clothing style, Kesmen introduced a new way to expose people to the core messages of the faith, at the center of which is peace.

Some of the designs read: “Terrorism has no religion,” “Hijab. My right. My choice. My life,” and “Jesus & Muhammad: Brothers in Faith.” The clothing line shows that Islam is about more than what appears in the media–it can be hip, too.

What do you think of these designs? Is clothing a good way to relay a message? Can a tee-shirt change people’s minds about Islam? Please share your thoughts below.

Hijablogging and Islamic Fashion

The hijab, one of the most prominent symbols of Islam, is apparently undergoing a modernization. According to a post by Global Voices blogger Jillian C. York, the trend is highly visible online. Blogs dedicated to hijabi fashion and personal experiences of wearing one can be found around the Internet. Below is a video from one so-called hijab blogger, and at the end of this entry, you will find a list of other sites to check out in addition.

Videoblogger Paintyourworld tells the virtual world about how she defines beauty in this entry posted on YouTube:

High fashion is one of the most popular subjects on hijab blogs. Take designer Saouli for instance. She is one of many designers leading the way in modest, yet trendy (and even couture) Islamic dress. Hijablog follows such designers and other hijab fashion trends. In fact, one entry points to a style complete with aviator sunglasses by another innovative designer Nadiah Ramli.

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Muslim Women and the Veil

The debate about Islamic dress such as hijab and head scarfs has fascinated political and fashion publications alike. Popular culture and political magazine Slate published a piece called “Hijab Chic” by Asra Nomani.* Nomani writes about American interpretations of hijab fashion (as does videoblogger Baba Ali and Tariq Ramadan). Her experience at a retail store for so-called “conservative religious women” reveals retailers as reinterpreting the veil to mean an important commercial opportunity. In presenting the view from a non-religious setting (at a fashion show) Nomani points out that in understanding the veil, what is revealed is insight into the people doing the interpreting.

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Turkish Soap Opera Sparks Controversy and Conversation

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Gümü? Stars: Songül Öden and K?vanç Tatl?tu? (Source)

The Turkish soap opera Gümü?, or Noor in English, is a pop culture phenomenon across the Arab world. Actress Songül Öden plays Noor, a young Muslim woman and fashion entrepreneur. The romantic relationship she has with Muhannad, her husband on the show, has won over a broad following in Arab countries and incited media buzz around the world. The fact that the program originally flopped in Turkey, a secular nation-state, but is immensely popular in religiously conservative countries like Saudi Arabia raises fascinating questions about the relationship between Islam and Muslim culture.

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