New Age Islam News Bureau
5 March 2017
Photo: Fatin, 16, and her brother are Syrian refugees whose family fled in 2013, just a few months after their mother’s sudden disappearance.
• Meet the New Arab Emojis Perking Up Dubai's WhatsApp Chats
• Meet the Muslim Women Inspiring a Modest Revolution.
• BMC Polls: Muslim Women Corporators Make History in Mumbai
Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau
Vogue Celebrates Muslims In Special Feature On American Women
"It’s important for mainstream media to show that Muslims are Americans."
Vogue is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year with a dazzling feature on the diverse lives and stories of American women around the country. Among the subjects featured is a community of Muslim women in Maryland, whose stories serve to remind viewers of the faith community’s crucial place in the American fabric.
The anniversary special, entitled “American Women,” encompasses 15 portfolios of video and portraiture shot by an array of photographers. Photojournalist Lynsey Addarrio shot the feature on “Islam in America,” which zoomed in on four Muslim women living in Maryland.
Fatin, 16, and her brother are Syrian refugees whose family fled in 2013, just a few months after their mother’s sudden disappearance.
Addarrio has been photographing Muslim men and women for over a decade, often shooting in regions of the world that have been ravaged by war and strife. But with Islamophobia on the rise, the photographer said it’s a critical time to be doing this work in the U.S.
“Since President Trump took office, he has issued executive orders directly and unjustly targeting Muslims,” Addario told The Huffington Post. “In my opinion, it’s important for mainstream media to show that Muslims are Americans-and many Americans are Muslims, and I hope stories like this can dispel misconceptions.”
Among the women Addario featured is Zainab Chaudhary, the Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a major Muslim advocacy group. In her work and personal life, Chaudry also often finds herself fighting back against stereotypes about Islam and Muslim women.
Zainab Chaudry, spokeswoman and Maryland outreach manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Washington, D.C.
“We’re not a monolith,” Chaudry said in the feature. “There’s this idea that we’re all cookie-cutter versions of one another. The fact is, we come from very diverse backgrounds. We all have unique experiences that define who we are.”
That message of diversity is very much part of the ethos of “American Women,” which showcases communities ranging from Standing Rock protestors to salmon fisherwomen in Alaska to Air Force service members in Honolulu.
The special wasn’t “intended as a response to the presidency of Donald Trump or to the women’s movement that has gained force in its wake,” wrote Vogue creator director Sally Singer. “And yet, so much has changed since we began initial photography, and so quickly.”
Friday prayer at the Diyanet Center of American in Lanham, Maryland.
The camps at Standing Rock have been razed. Families fear deportation of their friends and loved ones. Notions of race and educational opportunity are debated on Twitter. Sexuality, religion, ecology, nationality...everything seems in transition or under attack depending on where you stand on the political spectrum. Some of these women must feel safer since the election, and for others it’s quite the opposite. No doubt if these images could speak we would hear many points of view.
Life for many Muslim Americans has also changed in recent months. Addario shot the photographs in January ― prior to the inauguration and before President Donald Trump signed an executive order that banned visas for individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries. “There’s a sense, looking at these images, of the calm before the storm,” Vogue’s Julia Felsenthal wrote in the feature.
Lyric Harris distributing meals to the homeless in Baltimore with her husband, a Chad-born American citizen who is now an ROTC cadet.
Trump’s order left many Muslims, especially those with family from the seven countries, feeling alienated and unfairly targeted. In the weeks since, mosques have been burned, Islamophobic fliers have cropped up at universities, and even Muslims who aren’t from the seven banned countries have been barred entry to the U.S.
These incidents reflect the very kind of othering that Addario’s feature aims to combat.
“Ultimately, we are all very similar, regardless of our religions,” Addario said. “Most women want to be happy, successful, and if they choose to have families, want the best for their children.”
Meet the new Arab emojis perking up Dubai's WhatsApp chats
28 February 2017
Media captionThe Halla Walla app is full of playful Arab emojis
Emojis - the mini cartoon pictures beloved of smartphone owners - are fast becoming a global language.
In the Gulf, though, users have hit a problem: There are no Arab emojis - unless you count a generic turban-wearing guy, who could equally be a Sikh.
Keen to fill the void, two Dubai-based friends have launched an app starring shisha smokers, belly dancers and 200 other playful characters.
They called it "HALLA WALLA" - which is Arabic slang for "Hi there!", and a common greeting around Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
Yasmine Rasool, 31, from Bahrain, and Eriko Varkey, 30, who is originally from Japan, hit on the idea during a trip to New York.
"It's been a cultural and social experiment for us," says Yasmine. "We actually started this because we were jumping between cities, and people were asking us, 'Okay, so what is it like in the Arab world?' Me and Eriko were trying to explain what the culture is like, the beauty and the richness of it."
App creators Eriko Varkey (left) and Yasmine RasoolImage copyrightHALLAWALLA.COM
Eriko Varkey (left) and Yasmine Rasool created HALLA WALLA to help explain Arab culture
They made an app for the modern Middle East, to match stories of loud families, endless cousin gatherings, fashion statements, fast cars, strong feelings and late-night trips for shawarma (a much-loved meat wrap).
"People would ask me, do you have any rights, as a girl living there? And yeah, we have a lot of rights, actually," says Yasmine.
"A lot of people have such bad connotations about the Arab world, so we thought - okay, we need to explain it."
The HALLA emoticons include men in more conservative Islamic dress - the kandura, an ankle-length white robe, and the keffiyeh, a headdress. But others wear casual baseball caps.
Likewise the female emojis, which range from a bare-headed woman crying with laughter, to a girl in a loose hijab giving a flirty wink.
A sample of the emojis in the Halla Walla appImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
The emojis include a range of emotions - and sly Gulf jokes like a superbike and a blingy watch
"We really wanted to capture how fun-loving people are here - how everybody's comedic," Eriko says.
"Some of Yasmine's relatives are super-covered, they're conservative - but they're cheeky and fun-loving. Others are quite liberal, but also wear traditional dress.
"Our friends are mixed - we have some covered, some non-covered. So we really just wanted to capture all of that - to show that there's such a diversity here, especially in our generation."
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Yasmine says one of their gifs - an animated snippet of a woman in a hijab, blowing a kiss - was inspired by her cousins.
"All of them are covered - but most of them are so cheeky," she laughs. "We are Arab, but we're like every other human being."
When HALLA WALLA was in the works, the duo met focus groups in Bahrain, Dubai and Saudi Arabia to find out which emojis they were pining for.
They then worked with London-based developers Oxygn Consulting to make an app for iOS and Android.
The emoji keyboard lets users pepper their texts, emails or Facebook chats with emojis, or send animated gifs.
Of course, some of the little emoticons have more fans than others.
The Halla Walla tiger emojiImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
After one too many stories about Arab playboys driving around with their pet tigers - there's an emoji for that
"I love the guy with the shisha and the heart," Yasmine sighs. "Like, a guy is blowing a heart from a shisha pipe! That doesn't happen. If I find that man - I'm gonna date him!"
Eriko favours the gifs, which include a woman contouring her make-up - a big trend for fashion-conscious Gulf girls.
She hopes HALLA WALLA will find pride of place in the big family WhatsApp groups that Arab relatives use to stay in touch - much like families in her native Japan.
"It's a beautiful marriage of the two countries," she smiles. "They're two worlds apart, but they're kind of similar."
The app's creators say foods are among their most requested emojisImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
The app's creators say foods are among their most requested emojis
Decoding the most popular Arab emojis
The shway-shway gif is an early hit with the app's users. Shway means "little", but two shways are a plea to slow down.
It's a popular saying with a matching gesture - a pinch formed with all the fingers and an upturned palm.
Eriko explains: "It basically means, 'wait, I'm coming!' or 'calm down!'"
The shway shway emoji conjures up a phrase and gesture that urges patienceImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
Shway shway is a common phrase and a firm favourite on the app
Sword dancing man
It's a vaguely menacing man waving a sword over his head. What's he up to?
Eriko has the answer: "The guy holding up the sword is a very traditional dance that people do at weddings and celebrations."
Yep, it's the Ardah - or Arabian sword dance. (For a non-animated taster, see Prince Charles's latest tour of the Middle East).
The traditional Arabian sword dance - emojifiedImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
The Ardah sword dance - emojified
The female version features three long-haired women swishing their locks in unison.
"Oh! The girls dancing - that's a favourite one of mine," says Yasmine. "From childhood I always wanted long hair so I could copy the traditional dance!"
Hair tossing is a feature of traditional dance for some Arab womenImage copyrightHALLA WALLA
Hair tossing is a feature of traditional dance for some Arab women
The flying slipper
The HALLA creators burst out laughing when asked about this one.
"The slipper is basically - if you have done wrong, mother will bend down to pick up her slipper and throw it at you. And then you know that you should start running!"
Meet the Muslim Women Inspiring a Modest Revolution
2 March 2017
Something curious has happened to the fashion industry in the last few years: So-called modest fashion has started to take off. Designers and retailers are producing clothing that’s often a little longer and slightly looser and tends to have a higher neckline.
That’s good news for an eager generation of young women who want to look great while respecting their religious values.
Burberry, DKNY, and other brands have released special Ramadan collections, timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month. Uniqlo sells a line from British designer Hana Tajima described as fusing “contemporary design and comfortable fabrics with traditional values.” And last month, an event billed as the first “modest fashion” week was held at the Saatchi Gallery during London Fashion Week.
Behind this shift in tastes and preferences are a cadre of amateur designers and bloggers who amassed millions of followers on social media and grabbed the attention of big brands.
“It’s not like we just started to wear hijab,” said Mariah Idrissi, 24, who in 2015 became the first person to wear a hijab in an H&M ad campaign. “We’ve had this industry for a very long time, and they never really took notice.”
That seemed to change after bloggers proved they could attract huge followings.
Dina Torkia, 27 years old, started out posting pictures of her own clothing designs on Facebook five years ago, but people kept asking about how to style a hijab. She turned to YouTube, where she showed people how to create a “volumized” style. In one video, she showed viewers 20 different ways to tie a scarf.
“Think of it like a haircut,” she said. “People get bored of their hairstyles, so we get bored of our hijab styles.”
Torkia—known as Dina Tokio to her 1.1 million Instagram fans and more than half-million YouTube subscribers—blogs about finding clothes that reflect her faith-based values of dressing modestly. She has released her own lines and worked with a number of brands, including London high-end department stores Liberty and Harvey Nichols, as well as French luxury house Lancôme.
Dina Torkia demonstrates how to style a hijab in 20 different ways.
The market has been obvious for years. In 2015, Muslim women are estimated to have spent $44 billion on modest fashion alone, according to a Thomson Reuters report. Muslims make up 23 percent of the world's population, and the Pew Research Center expects the figure to grow to 29.7 percent by 2050.
Religious women—not just Muslims, but Jews and Christians as well—have long struggled to find clothes that are both modest and trendy. Rabia Zargarpur, one of the pioneer designers in the modest-fashion world, said that when she started wearing a headscarf around 2001, she drew styling inspiration from Erykah Badu, who isn't Muslim. In 2009, Zargarpur opened an online store selling her own designs, including long-sleeved shirts and tops that would cover hips.
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Zargarpur—or Rabia Z as she’s known—showed off her first runway collection in 2007 at the Dubai International Fashion Week. Big retail brands started to get in touch, but she said she thinks they weren’t ready to make the leap. “The regional stores were super-excited because they knew that it would sell well,” she said. “But I would go to headquarters, and they would always hesitate. They said ‘Oh, we’re busy with other projects,’ but I know that it was the hijab aspect.”
It was around the time Torkia started posting her designs on Facebook that some of today’s most prominent fashion bloggers started to express themselves online. Kuwait-based Ascia al-Faraj, 27 years old, started blogging in 2012 and has quickly become one of the region’s most influential fashion writers, amassing more than 2.1 million followers on Instagram.
Al-Faraj has worked with a series of premium brands, and she has hinted that her latest collaboration is with Net-a-Porter, the online luxury retailer. The company didn’t return requests for comment.
Robbie Sinclair, womenswear editor of the trend-forecasting service WGSN, said that beyond the potential for sales growth, companies are purposefully trying to stand out by making bold statements that can veer into the political realm.
Nike released two ads in February featuring women wearing headscarves. The company also changed its bio on Twitter to simply read: “If we can be equals in sport, we can be equals everywhere.” The second targeted the Middle East and highlighted five female athletes from the region.
Sinclair said it's only a matter of time before more companies incorporate modest fashion into their collections. “Something's always just an idea until someone does it,” he said.
It's more than just headscarves. While the event in London mostly attracted Muslim women, Torkia thinks modest fashion can be for anyone. “I think we need to take Muslim out of it,” she said. “I’m pretty sure every religion promotes modesty.”
BMC Polls: Muslim Women Corporators Make History in Mumbai
MUMBAI Updated: Feb 28, 2017
Of the 29 Muslims who were elected as corporators from across the city in the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election, 18 were women — the highest figures in the history of the civic body polls.
The number makes for 62% of the corporators from the community, which says that the women have started making a mark in the electoral fray.
Take the case of Meher Haider, who won from Andheri. Wife of senior Congress leader, Mohseen Haider, Meher is a fashion designer by profession. When asked if she would be a rubber stamp for her husband, Meher shot back, “By the grace of God, I am well educated and competent to take my own decision,” said Meher.
Meher Khan (HT)
According to her, having a woman as an elected representative will work more to the advantage for the city and her party. “Women are more sensitive and hard working,” she quipped.
Rukhsana Siddique, who won from the Govandi slum pocket on a Samajwadi party ticket, felt that education should be the priority. She will make that her aim when she starts working for her ward, she said.
Rukhsana Siddique (HT)
“Our children suffer from lack of education and I am going to change that,” said Siddique. “Just like every house needs a woman, the city needs them too. It needs more women to hold the baton.”
Afreen Javed Shaikh, who was elected from ward no 224 in Colaba, feels that more women are needed in the political field for betterment of the city.
“Women can compete with men in every sphere of life. Politics is no different,” said Shaikh.
Dr Saeeda Khan, who was elected from Kurla, is a medical practitioner. She completed a law course last year so she could understand the workings of the BMC better. A second term corporator from the NCP, Khan has played a vital role in the health committee of the BMC.
Currently, the Muslim community suffers from issues like lack of education as well as jobs. For years, the representation of the community’s women in politics has been negligible.
According to Dr Azimuddin Sayed, president, Movement for Human Welfare, there is now a gradual change that the community is going through.
“We see an increasing number of Muslim women coming out and actively participating in various activities,” said Sayed.
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