How Has Hijab Become The Talk Of The Town?


From Sweden’s feminists on the receiving end for wearing hijab to Marine Len Pen refusing to wear one and London hosting the first-ever Modest Fashion Week. Shruti Gattani talks about the drama around the headscarf.

Lindsay Lohan says she was 'racially profiled' while wearing a headscarf at Heathrow Airport
Lindsay Lohan says she was ‘racially profiled’ while wearing a headscarf at Heathrow Airport

The debate on the headscarf has been around for a while and least of all, anyone imagined Lindsay Lohan being a part of this. Mean Girls starrer was travelling from Turkey to New York with a pit stop at the Heathrow Airport. She was asked by an immigration officer to remove the headscarf that she was wearing out of sheer respect towards the Syrian refugees, who she was working with. Post the incident, the actress claimed that she had been “racially profiled” for the “first time in my life”.

Following Lohan’s incident, hijabs once again became hot news for a whole lot of other reasons in just a week.

Starting with: Sweden’s self-proclaimed feminist government recently visited Iran, where they were seen donning the headscarf. The viral photo received flak on social media and even saw captions like “Walk of shame: Women of Sweden’s ‘first feminist government in the world’ don hijab as they walk past Iran’s [President] Rouhani” – attached to it.

Another incident that took centre stage was when Marine Len Pen, leader of France’s Front National party cancelled a meeting with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, the top cleric of Sunni Muslims, after declining to wear a headscarf. “Pass on my considerations [to the cleric] but I will not veil myself,” Le Pen declared. Her refusal found recognition and was being celebrated by feminists. Le Pen gained two million more voters since her last presidential bid, back in 2012.

While these incidents were making political statements leading to major hue and cry, brands on the other hand resorted to recognising Generation M – which has taken the internet and the world by storm, proving that faith and modernity can go hand-in-hand. “Big corporations like Coca-Cola or Garnier are targeting the Muslim market in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines because they are recognising the consumer power here. This is where the money is,” John Goodman, president of Ogilvy Noor, the world’s first Islamic branding and marketing consultancy agency told R.AGE.

Recently L’Oréal Paris unleashed its “All Worth It” campaign with The Prince’s Trust, Cheryl’s pregnant bump, Helen Mirren’s “incredible self-doubt” and the headscarf-wearing YouTuber Amena Kin amongst others. The beauty brand joined its counterparts – Apple, Uniqlo, Dolce & Gabbana and Danone – in embracing hijabis. Another mega-cosmetic brand Lancôme featured make-up artist Sumra Khan as one of the faces of its Teint Idole Ultra Wear foundation.

“Generation M is finally being recognised on the high street as consumers just like everyone else — which is what they want, to be able to go and buy clothes, food or any other product, but one that is tailored for them. Why, they wonder, does everyone want to talk burkinis all the time?” said Shelina Janmohamed, vice-president of Ogilvy Noor to Evening Standard.

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There’s a first time for everything! The UK’s first ‘Modest Fashion Week’ took place over two days and was a very well-attended event. The extravaganza turned the tables in this anti-Muslim frenzied world, where hijabs, abayas and kimonos were brought on the catwalk, showcasing fashion that is sensitive towards faith. Moreover, the demure looks presented were for anyone who wanted subtlety. If you thought leather caps cannot be worn by hijabis, then think twice! 40 designers from around the world participated in the fashion week, which was endorsed by people like Dina Tokio, the famous hijab-wearing blogger. She told Middle East Eye, “”The thing we’ve been the most impressed about is the turnout and how genuinely happy everybody is to see this come to life.”

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