Halima Aden’s Experience Opens Up a Wider Discussion About How the West Treats Muslim Women

December 2020

Hello. I hope you are well. I would like to write an article about Halima Aden’s (a Muslim fashion model) recent decision to quit the runway after reflecting upon how she was forced to compromise her religious beliefs to excel in the industry. I intend to highlight that her experiences and feelings reflect those of many other Muslim women and her story therefore opens up a wider discussion.

What I intend to discuss:
1.  How the modelling industry still uses tokenism despite praising itself for being more inclusive than it has ever been. For example, it is frustrating that the hijab on Muslim women is associated with oppression and terrorism, and so Muslim women like Halima have to wear a “palatable version” of the hijab, and yet Gucci can appropriate the hijab and non-Muslim women like Gigi Hadid can wear a hijab for a photoshoot and suddenly it becomes trendy, alluring and exotic.

2. How the false narrative that Muslims aren’t “modern” stemming from colonialism seeped into the minds of the Muslim community. At the start of her career Muslim followers were telling her to “stop dressing like an old woman” and show people what a “modern Hijabi” looks like. The community has been conditioned to feel like we must prove that we are not “backwards” by sharing westernised standards of fashion and beauty. According to Halima, even Vogue Arabia does this.

3. How Halima’s attempt to take back her own narrative and self-image is empowering. She plans to be the first Miss Somalia to compete for Miss Universe and is now only accepting modelling jobs if her hijab is visible in a way that is deemed appropriate to her.

Why me?
I believe that I am the appropriate person to write this article because not only will my expertise in identity politics (I have a master’s degree in Human Rights and Political Science) inform this discussion, but also as a Muslim woman I connect with Halima’s feelings and story. I am also very passionate about this topic.

I have had many engaging discussions with friends about our experiences of being Muslim women in the west and these experiences Halima shares with us also.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time. It is much appreciated.