Hana Siddiqi is a writer and filmmaker, and in this op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle she writes about taking her 11 year old daughter to see the Contemporary Muslim Fashions exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
“Walking up to the building,” she writes, “we noticed the larger-than-life window banners featuring the Somali supermodel Halima Aden and the word ‘beauty’ in Arabic script. This brought on a moment of pride — and warranted a selfie…. From the start, we could see that the exhibition did not frame women as oppressed victims and did not focus on the solid black ensemble some see as the representation of Muslim dress…. The exhibition captured the full range of how Muslim women present themselves, to themselves, each other and the world… It was basically a Muslim Girl Fest. My daughter called it ’empowering’ … especially for young Muslim girls. Plus, it was so beautiful and diverse.”
Here are some more snippets from the piece:
— Inside, our eyes fell upon beautifully made gowns, photos of niqabi biker chicks and a plethora of hijabs — as well as mannequins sans head coverings — that proved that Muslim women come in many forms… The galleries were filled with not only traditional abayas but also couture gowns and street clothing… There were also other media, such as a mini-documentary of Arab fashion icon and humanitarian Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, the viral Mipsters video montage featuring Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, and the hauntingly beautiful work of the artist Shirin Neshat.
— My daughter, being mixed, is proud of her South Asian Muslim roots as well as her Mexican and European heritage. It’s her awareness, however, that Muslims have been marginalized in the media that makes her embrace any positive portrayal. More than that, seeing an exhibit in which Muslim girls and women are representing themselves, through blogs, through music and through design, was uplifting.
— “It’s kind of unexpected for people to create a place only focusing on Muslim women’s fashion,” my daughter observed, “because a lot of that kind of stuff is looked down upon just because some believe Muslims are terrorists. They don’t really have an interest in this aspect … so it’s like an empowering statement to show the beauty of Muslim women through fashion.”