Faith & Fashion: Discovering Beauty in Modesty as an American Muslim Woman

“Faith & Fashion: Discovering Beauty in Modesty as an American Muslim Woman” is a museum exhibition that will explore concepts of discovering one’s true beauty despite societal norms. Throughout television and pop culture, beauty in women has been directed related to how much skin or body they show, thus perpetuating the sexualization of women. However, the Muslim women captured by photographer Joshua Christie show that woman can still be beautiful while maintaining modesty. The exhibition will also feature words from these women on what the hijab means to them.

Meet Ranya

"...I wanted my actions to speak louder than my appearance..."

"When I was first thinking about putting on the hijab, the main reason was to prevent others from judging me by my looks or how I dressed. I wanted my actions to speak louder than my appearance. When others see my hijab, they will most likely associate it directly with Islam and it’s teachings. Ever since I put on the hijab, I have always gone out of my way to be the nicest person in the room. To always have a smile on my face. To be modest in not only my clothing but my actions, as well."

 "I have had many conversations with people who were curious about Islam and they felt comfortable to ask questions and learn about my hijab and my religion rather than be left in unnecessary fear. I never would have expected that wearing the hijab would become a huge part of my daily life and my experience with others. But I quickly realized that nowadays, with all the incorrect stereotypes about the hijab and its affect on women in Islam, I have an unspoken responsibly to make a difference - even on a small scale."

Meet Yasmine

 "My faith is the reason I am who I am today and the hijab is just another way I can show that. "

"My favorite part about the hijab is that the first thing someone knows about me is that I am Muslim. My faith is the reason I am who I am today and the hijab is just another way I can show that. Throughout the media women are meant to show their skin, their hair, their bodies, etc. so that they can be this sexy persona that society has normalized and wants them to be. Although I would never tell anyone how they should be portraying themselves, in Islam women cover up so that who we are on the inside is the first and only thing that people focus on. My looks can only mean so much, and don’t get me wrong I can dress nice and portray my style even with covering my body and my hair, but who I am as a friend, peer, coworker, community member, stranger, etc. is what matters more. Wearing the hijab reminds me that although I am not a representation of all Muslims, some people may wrongly see me as that so I should act accordingly. It allows me to strive to be the best Muslim, even the best version of myself, that I can be so that I can show the world how amazing Islam is."

Meet Salma

"My hijab is a vow, not just to Allah but to myself."

So, Salma, what does the headscarf mean to you?

"My hijab is a vow, not just to Allah but to myself. a vow of protection. It separates my private self from my public self, not only to protect my body but my heart too. I’ve been wearing it for 11 years now, and over time I’ve seen the value of that separation. It’s a tangible extension of myself when I am out, it signals sisterhood and love of self to those around me. But when I take it off in specific spaces, those settings physically feel like safe spaces. The relationship I then build with my private self within those spaces is protected from external criticism."

"Through the battles I’ve had with the fashion industry, I’ve learned to infuse my hijab with my personality and develop a voice that went beyond my identity as a hijabi woman, a voice I was able to develop privately and use to fight the same oppression I am assumed to be a victim of. Keeping it on is a difficult task, no doubt. If it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be a testament to my faith. I am not fundamentally any more religious than my non-hijabi sisters but that expectation is there and it is crushing at times. And yes, due to the media’s portrayal of my people as well as just my being covered, there are those that will not approach me because I wear a hijab. But also do I really want those people approaching me?

Merna, Israa, and Fatema

Their faith has allowed them to become a sisterhood, sharing their stories amongst one another and finding strength within each other. 

These women have shown that despite societies standards, true beauty shines inwardly to outwardly.

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