We often talk about how the hijab is viewed negatively in the Western world. But I don’t think that many people realize that discrimination against the hijab doesn’t only happen in western society. In my experience, it also occurs in my home country, Pakistan, and my own family members are a part of the problem.
My sister and I started wearing the hijab when we were 15 and 13, respectively. For us, it seemed like a natural choice since we’d spent most of our childhood in Saudi Arabia, where the hijab was mandatory. When our family in Pakistan found out we still wore the hijab after moving to Canada in our teen years, they were ecstatic. They thought it was wonderful that we chose this for ourselves and praised us for making seemingly religious choices.
But that all changed when my sister turned 20 and someone tried to propose to her. Our mother rejected the engagement and it sparked a debate within our entire family. Most of them believed that more proposals would come her way if my sister took off her hijab. I still remember my mother arguing with our aunt who said that hijabs are only meant to look good on girls who are “white, thin, and pretty.” She thought that I was too dark and my sister was too fat, so we were ruining our prospects by sticking to our hijabs.
The worst part about all of this is that my aunt wasn’t entirely wrong. The hijab didn’t make men jump at the chance to marry us. Due to pressure from extended family members, my mother was constantly on the lookout for potential matches for my sister. But every guy who approached would run away just as fast once he heard that she wouldn’t be taking her hijab off for him.
After a while, my sister did it. She found a guy who seemed accepting of who she was and agreed to marry him after a year. Suddenly, the tune the family was singing changed, but not for the better. Everyone asked if she’d be taking her hijab off for the wedding and discussing how beautiful she would look in this or that hairdo. They tried to talk my mother into making my sister buy lehengas, which would show off her midriff and arms. This completely goes against the very purpose of wearing a hijab.
To reach a compromise with my family, I nominated myself as my sister’s makeup artist and hairstylist for the wedding day and began experimenting with different hijab styles. We naively thought that if we could show them that the hijab could be dolled up, they would accept her decision. They did not. In the end, when the engagement was broken off, they simply returned to their earlier comments about taking off the hijab to score a husband.
The sheer amount of criticism that came with all this has my sister unsure about whether she ever wants to have a wedding, let alone one in Pakistan with our family. It hurt to watch my sister try and deal with the harsh judgment and then come to realize that her opinions hold no value in our community. It hurts more to think that other Pakistani brides might have to put up with the same level of harassment all over one headscarf.
My sister was always much more staunch in her love of the hijab. Truth be told, I started wearing it on the condition that it would be pink and glittery. If you asked me just two years back, I might have given in to the family pressure and agreed to take off my hijab for my wedding.
Yet, knowing the struggle and judgment that comes with making a choice has given me an appreciation for the fact that it was a choice. However petty my reason is, it is my choice to put on the hijab, and I will be damned if I let someone else try to make decisions about my body and my attire for that one day in my life.
Now I can say with confidence that I will not be taking my hijab off for my wedding.
For many Muslims, Ramadan is a month met with much anticipation. For some, it’s an opportunity to rekindle connection – with nightly iftars, congregational prayers, and other mosque activities, it’s a time where community spirit thrives. For others it can be a challenging time; both physical and cultural barriers result in some, such as women, or mothers, having an unmosqued Ramadan. This is due to the fact that in some countries or communities, women are barred from attending the mosque, or the infrastructure and space allotted to them suggest women’s space in a mosque as an afterthought rather than an integral or central part of the Muslim community.
For the entire month, the Imam leads the congregation in Taraweeh prayer, which happens only during Ramadan. Ramadan 2020 is taking place in the midst of a pandemic, and most people are observing social distancing in some form. As such, mosques will be mostly empty except for the Imam and possibly a handful of congregants.
Understandably, many people fear they will miss out and have a less meaningful Ramadan this year. Without the mosque, there is a lack of that sense of community that so many people look forward to and rely on. The concept of going virtual is somewhat difficult to grasp being far from what people define as a community.
The absence of Taraweeh prayers and the mosque community bring to light a pertinent question: why are men the gatekeepers of religion?
Men are finding themselves in a strange predicament – this year they are on the receiving end of being unmosqued; it’s the first time they’re faced with closed doors, being unwelcomed, and not having a space for worship. Women, on the other hand, know these experiences all too well.
For too long women in Muslim communities have been on the receiving end of the false narrative that their spiritual growth and development are tethered to a man or the men in their communities. For a woman, it’s taken in stride that her presence is not always welcomed or encouraged in the mosque environment, with it being cited that it is better for women to pray at home instead of at the mosque. Women have learned to adapt to these cultural mindsets and advocate for reform within the constraints of a mosque board, though it is not always received well – change is hard to come by.
A spiritual path for women has been purported to be through men, whether an imam or their relatives. Accessibility to God, through religious practices, is taught to be fixed method, that men lead in worship, women follow, and it’s extrapolated that without men leading, women are therefore cut off from particular modes of worship, and their spiritual journey is curtailed.
Social distancing and a pandemic may be putting a damper on regular Ramadan activities, but I’d like to put forward the idea that it’s a time where women can flourish spiritually, and it should be embraced. This Ramadan is an opportunity to flip the script and reclaim what is ours. Now is the optimal time, as women, to recognize and reclaim Ramadan as a spiritual experience that we can set the tone for and experience in our own ways.
It’s scary and unnerving for some women who’ve been conditioned or brought up to think that their spiritual well-being relies on being led by a man when the opposite is actually the reality. In early Muslim communities, women led other women in prayers; they were in charge and invested in their own spiritual growth. Countless women memorized and recited Qur’an, a topic that can be contentious nowadays; though in some countries it is accepted (and encouraged) for women to recite in public, there are still places where the overarching cultural perception is that a woman should refrain from projecting her voice in public spaces.
This Ramadan is surely going to be different from what we’re used to, but there is a silver lining in all this COVID-induced chaos. The absence of congregations this Ramadan actually levels the gender-biased playing field. It gives women the space to unearth what they require to nurture a spiritual relationship for themselves – one which men are not privy to.
These polishes also offer the chance for your nails to rest. They help restore growth and strength back to your nails, and many come enhanced with vitamin B5, vitamin C, and argan oil. Some polishes are not tested on animals and are even vegan-friendly.
Breathable nail polish is a must-have item for Muslims wanting to rock a slaying mani while performing wudu. There has been wide debate as to whether or not the breathable polishes are truly halal, but it has been noted by a few users that after some testing the formula appears water-permeable. Whether you believe it or not, it’s significant that brands are making an effort to accommodate people’s different religious beliefs with their products.
“If something is blocking [your nails], that is not acceptable,” says Habib Ghanim, director of ISWA Halal Certification Department and president of USA Halal Chamber of Commerce. “When wudu is performed, water has to touch every part of your body. If you have nail polish on that is non-porous, that is not considered halal.”
Although many brands are popping up offering halal cosmetics, the products are still relatively new and it can, therefore, be difficult to suss out all options on offer. This list showcases some glorious alternatives to your typical nail polishes, leaving your fingertips free for any and every color you could possibly imagine.
What people are saying: “I transitioned to non-toxic nail polish recently and noticed a huge difference in the health of my nails (and allergies). Really cool. I used the polish for my french manicure tips and it works perfectly. No smell, dried fast, no streaking, consistent texture, and color. I would get again.”—T
What people are saying: “I am so happy with this polish. I’ve been waiting to replace all my old polish with a great chemical-free, or ‘cleaner’ polish and here it is! The coverage is great, dries quickly, and has great durability.” —Amazon Customer
What people are saying: “I stopped wearing nail polish because my nails had become so damaged, but I missed my pretty manicures. I tried a few “healthier” nail polishes but was so disappointed with the results that I almost gave up. SO glad I didn’t. This nail polish goes on so creamy and dries to a super hard finish that’s lasted for days! Plus, my nails are doing just fine. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that oxygen gets through. Whatever it is, love the results!!!” —Fran
What people are saying: “Mashallah, the color is simply beautiful; and what makes it more unique is the ability for me to feel beautiful without compromising my faith. Furthermore, the seller gave me an extra polish (top coat) with my purchase.” —Isatta Feika
What people are saying: “Really good nail polish! It feels nice and isn’t goopy, clumpy or stringy or anything like that. It feels light and healthy and at the same time true to color. I’m very happy with the results! ? it also dries pretty fast.” —Lizzy
What people are saying: “The formula is smooth and goes on very easily. It dries quickly. It’s remained intact through a shower, multiple handwashings, and giving a toddler a bath. I absolutely love it!” —Ashley M. James
What people are saying: “Love this nail polish. There are so many great colors to choose from and the ingredients are better than a lot of other nail polishes. It’s easy to apply and it’s long lasting. Thank you!” —Karen
What people are saying: “Loved the color and the polish stayed on for at least 5 days and then it only chipped slightly. I had heard some of Orly’s nail colors don’t even dry fully so I was skeptical about this but my experience was a positive one!!” — Edie Superstar
What people are saying: “Tried it and it applies nicely, looks streaky at first but after a few seconds smooths out. Only needed to apply two coats and didn’t use a base or topcoat at all. I can be rough with nails as a nurse and cleaning at home. I definitely recommend, and can’t wait to paint my little girl’s nails too.” —Vanessa M
What people are saying: “Just received this little gem today and although I went for the other color first I am equally excited to try this beauty out as well! Christmas is coming up annnnd this would make amazing gifts….hint…hint ;)” —Stacy D
13. A deep chocolate color to give you dramatic, vamp-like nails that would make Elvira nod her head in approval.
What people are saying: “Wanting a healthier nail polish, I’d heard about Halal polishes and thought I’d give it a try. I’ll never go back to regular polishes! This was nice and my nails were in great shape once I took the polish off.”—1husband2sons
What people are saying: “My new favorite glitter polish! It’s very sheer with one coat but can be built up to opaque. It has a slightly matte finish which I do not like, I need my polishes to have a shiny glass finish. You can achieve the shiny glass finish by applying a topcoat over this polish however due to the texture it eats topcoat right up so you’ll need 2 to even be shiny but still slightly gritty and 3 gets you a shiny glass-like finish which makes the glitters and holo effect stand way out with this polish!”—Kara
What people are saying: “Surprised by getting it so fast; by one coat covering nicely (although I recommend 2 coats); by how pretty the color (barely there is) and how it’s so similar to regular nail polish. I actually would not know the difference because it’s so smooth. I only gave it a 4 star because even the smell of regular nail polish is the same and it’s a bit pricey. Overall I really like it and hope to get more shades. It’s worth it! Now I can pray with nail polish and not feel guilty.” —Shania
What people are saying: “I love 786 polish! Wudu-friendly, goes on smooth, dries hard and lasts 10 days on my toes. It also lacks many of those disturbing ingredients used by other companies.” —ModestyMaven
What people are saying: “It’s subtle but still colorful enough to make a pop. It’s one of those colors that goes well with light and dark clothing and I have gotten so many compliments! I was also worried that being a breathable polish meant that it would be super thin but even just one coat was thick enough to cover everything.” —Amazon Customer
24. Glam it up without harming your nails – if that isn’t a win-win, I don’t know what is.
What people are saying: “Oh! How can I LOVE a fingernail polish color this much??? But I do!!! It is just spot on let me tell you!! Not too dark, not too light, just AMAZING!!! Thank You!!!” —Suzzette McCoy
S.K. Ali’s second book, Love from A to Z, follows the story of two Muslim teens, one American of South Asian descent, Zayneb, and the other Adam, a Canadian in Doha of mixed heritage – Finnish and Chinese.
Zayneb’s gone to visit her aunt in Doha, after she’s been suspended from school because she talked back to her teacher after his Islamophobic tirade. Adam’s has to deal with his multiple sclerosis diagnosis, that he still has to tell his family about. Zayneb is known for her outspoken nature by her family, friends and in school, whereas Adam is quieter, more zen in his approach to life’s hurdles.
The book follows these two journal entries, both Adam and Zayneb having a Marvel and Oddities journal, recording their daily marvels and oddities. For Nicola Yoon fans out there, it’s reminiscent of the flow of The Sun is Also a Star novel, in which the reader’s given a first person point of view to events as they unfolded.
We’re warned early on that it’s a love story. But it’s so much more than that.
Here are in no specific order, and with as few spoilers as possible, reasons to love this book, and make it your Summer read.
The staging of their story, with the scene being set on one side of the world and unfolding on the other side of it.
The protagonists meet in the airports of not one, but two continents, and serendipitously cross paths again where Adam lives in Doha.
Knowing beforehand that a love story will unfold doesn’t make you less invested in their love story, it actually keeps you eager to know when they’d meet next, and what will happen, who will make the first move, what their first argument will be about, and how they’ll eventually reconcile. Most importantly, how will they confess their love to each other? All answers you can look forward to.
There’s something even more charming when the love story has that unique serendipitous feel to it; it makes you feel the magic of everyday life.
Now to their backstories: Adam deals with his medical diagnosis and what that means for him and his family; Zayneb faces with different aspects of Islamophobia in her daily life. They’re both young and figuring out how to navigate their current circumstances, in a way that makes you invested in each of their individual stories, and not just their romance.
For both Adam and Zayneb, their families mean a lot to them, which I’ve found to be a common thread in books written by minority writers – or the ones I chose to read, they weave family ties into their characters stories, moreso the value of keeping those relationships harmonious.
Forget Aladdin, Adam will show you the world… well Doha, at least.
Not having read books with Doha as the setting before, it’s something I enjoyed as it added another element to the diversity of the story itself, with two persons from very different backgrounds, meeting by chance and having that developed in a multicultural city such as Doha.
Love from A to Z is unapologetically Muslim. And that’s a very big thing. When there’s a constant expectation to validate yourself, your Muslimness and why you belong in your community, it’s comforting to open the pages of a book like this and immerse yourself in things that are familiar, without explanation, especially if your label is modern Muslim woman, or Muslim woman in the West, a label that alludes to the reconciliation of two identities.
Injustice and harassment, and being on edge because of your identity, particularly a Muslim one, are the main themes of this book; a struggle for Zayneb, as injustice ruffles her feathers. Throughout this story, Zayneb’s on the journey to sort herself out, to be more palatable to those around her, especially after causing distress to her friends because she wasn’t able to control her anger, despite her anger being totally justified. That’s the type of story we can all relate to, I think. When you try to put yourself in boxes to be accepted or tamed, the box is gonna collapse sooner or later. Or better yet, you realize it needs to be thrown out altogether.
When it comes to the everyday lives for many Muslims who consistently need to justify their place, Islamophobia is a very real, jarring fact of life, that is as unpredictable as it is unavoidable. Ali’s inclusion of writing about this is a reminder of the everyday realities of Muslim life in some communities. Geopolitical conflicts are brought home in this book, as an acute reminder of the lasting effects political tactics and decisions have on everyday people. This provides a steep learning curve for Zayneb, as she’s on her journey of renewal.
Here’s a spoiler: Adam is Muslim too, and it would be totally remiss of me to not mention that Zayneb has Trini roots, and as someone who doesn’t get to say that a lot in Muslim YA books, that’s 10 points to S.K. Ali from me.
This book is one of those books that I knew from the get-go I had to read in one sitting, and you should definitely do the same.
The hype around a wedding in Pakistani society is unreal.
It is as if the entire world is waiting for that one event of your life and your whole upbringing leads up to it. The multi-billion dollar wedding industry is huge, comprising of thousands of designers, makeup artists, jewelers, and photographers.And they all come at a hefty price. Everybody is racing to get that dress from that one top-notch designer. Bookings are done a year in advance for the best makeup artists.
The bride needs to look perfect the setting has to be magnificent and the pictures should be enough to share on your facebook for the next few years.
But what if the bride wishes to wear a hijab? Hide her beautiful locks on the big day? GASP.
Is it really that unfathomable? Yes.
You’d think in Pakistan, a Muslim country, this would be more common, but it really is not. Even people who wear the hijab generally don’t do so at their weddings due to cultural standards of beauty.
“How are you going to look beautiful without your hair showing?” “The jewelry must show. What is a bride without showing off her earrings and necklace?” “Your face will shrink if you wear the hijab and your makeup won’t even look that good”.
This is what you would expect to hear if you ever decide on announcing to your family that you plan on wearing a hijab on your big day.
This concept of what an ideal bride should look like is set in stone, and I had to fight quite a lot to get my way and go against the norm. It’s interesting: this idea of the perfect bride with a heavy outfit, flowing locks of hair, jewelry, hands full of henna and a few pounds of makeup.
Anything not following that pattern is seen as scandalous.
People kept asking me, “Isn’t it okay if you let go of the hijab just for a day?” I was adamant on not doing so. How does one fight for their personal right to wear whatever they want when everybody around them is in opposition to it?
After ignoring most of the snarky comments passed on to me by relatives and friends, I started the hunt for the perfect style of hijab for my face and was intent on looking as fabulous as I could.
Finding a hijab stylist was not easy.
After a lot of Instagram hunting, I found one who was just perfect. With tonnes of heavy work on my bridal dress carrying an additional layer on my head was tough. There were quite a few pins inserted onto my head so my scarf would not fall off.
There was a lot of pressure on me because I wanted to show people that beauty comes in many forms.
In the end, I looked beautiful and I loved it.
I did hear a few oohs and aahs from the crowd, but there were also people who admired my courage to wear the hijab and told me so.
I couldn’t be happier.
I wonder how we have reached this stage of extravagance. These cultural standards are so different from our religion that it’s astonishing. Islam encourages the simplest of weddings, no burden on anybody. Feed a few loved ones and the poor. That is all.
In the end, it’s all about confidence. Wear what you want on your big day and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
2017 was intense. We began the year with the largest worldwide protest in history as more than 300,000 people gathered for the Women’s March. That was only the beginning, though. This year we have been blown away by the women leaders who have been innovating in every sphere of life, in every corner of the world.
This list wasn’t easy to create: we are spoiled for choice when it comes to strong, innovative, amazing women and the list is not presented in any order because we simply couldn’t bear to rank such a diverse group of change makers.
If this is what the future looks like, we can’t wait.
1. Brittany Packnett
Brittany Packnett is a social justice activist, educator, organizer, writer, and speaker – basically the superhero we all need. Her achievements include being the co-founder of Campaign Zero – a police reform campaign, as well as being a member of Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force.
Additionally, Brittany is the vice-president of national community alliances for Teach for America and featured on Pod Save The People.
2. Carly Findlay
Carly Findlay is a writer, speaker and appearance and disability activist. Carly started writing about life with Ichthyosis on her blog in 2009, and since then she’s become a leader in the disability rights movement in Australia. She was featured on the ABC’s You Can’t Ask That in 2017 and she’s working on a memoir.
Carly is working to change the way people think about people with visible differences, shattering the silence and making the world a better place for everyone.
3. Aditi Juneja
Aditi Juneja is a lawyer and activist who founded the Resistance Manual – a site which describes itself as ” focused on presenting truthful and actionable information to empower people to participate in their democracy.” It is a site with information to resist the Trump/GOP administration.
Due to her incredible work with the resistance, Aditi was included in the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list, and we had the privilege of interviewing her earlier in 2017.
4. Simone Zimmerman
Simone Zimmerman is the co-founder of If Not Now, which seeks to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The movement aims to end the war on Gaza, end the occupation and demands freedom and dignity for all.
Simone is an inspiration and symbol of what can be achieved when one refuses to be silent.
5. Monica Jones
Monica Jones is a sex worker and activist working in Arizona to combat anti-sex worker laws that target women of color, the LGBTQ community, and trans women. Monica was arrested under the law she was speaking against, the case was eventually dropped.
She is a badass who continues to speak out about injustices and refuses to allow herself to be intimidated.
6. Reina Gossett
Reina Gossett is an activist, filmmaker, and writer who produces movies about trans* women. She notably wrote, directed and produced “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” which follows trans* rights activists, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
Reina has also worked with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Queers for Economic Justice, and Critical Resistance.
7. Maysoon Zayid
Maysoon Zayid is a Palestinian-American actress and comedian with cerebral palsy who made history by being the first person to ever perform stand-up comedy in Palestine and Jordan. Maysoon co-founded the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival, gave an incredible TED Talk, and also co-hosts the Fann Majnoon comedy show.
She spends three months a year running arts programs for orphans and children with disabilities in the Palestinian territories to help them deal with trauma.
8. Shareefa Energy
Shareefa Energy is a London-based spoken word poet, writer, and force behind the play, ‘Wombs Cry.’ Shareefa uses storytelling methods to highlight issues in society and challenge stereotypes of Muslim women.
Her achievements include receiving the UK Unsigned Hype Best Spoken Word Artist 2014 award, being invited to perform in Berlin at ‘Poetry Meets Hip Hop,’ and being featured on Channel 4 for National Poetry Day 2015.
9. Imade Nibokun
Imade Nibokun is a writer and activist who runs “Depressed While Black,” an online platform that shares stories about being depressed while black, fighting the idea that it is a white person’s disease.
Additionally, her written work has been featured in LA Weekly, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, VICE, and WNYC.
10. Lauren Duca
Lauren Duca is a writer who changed the narrative of Teen Vogue by writing an article criticising Donald Trump, which spearheaded the direction the teen publication took into the space of political activism.
Lauren won the Shorty Award for Best Journalist, received the Eleanor Roosevelt Tomorrow Is Now Award, and was honored with an Engendering Progress Award.
11. Katrin Jakobsdottir
Katrin Jakobsdottir is Iceland’s new Prime Minister. Unlike some world leaders who don’t believe in climate change, Katrin is an environmentalist and badass anti-war feminist.
She is the second female Prime Minister of Iceland, part of the Left-Green Movement, and is one of the world’s youngest leaders.
12. Noorjahan Akbar
Noorjahan is the founder of Free Women Writers in Afghanistan, which is a collective of Afghan writers and students that promotes the voices and stories of women in newspapers and on the radio.
In 2013, they published a collection of work titled Daughters of Rabia. In 2016, the Daughters of Rabia scholarship was founded to fund higher education for women in Afghanistan.
Their second book, You Are Not Alone, is a guide for women facing gender-based violence. It came out in English in September 2017.
13. Mashal Waqar
Mashal is one of our fearless leaders: the co-founder and CTO here at The Tempest. Mashal is a fierce advocate for accessibility and inclusion, and in 2017 she was awarded the Young Leader of the Year award at the 19th Global WIL Economic Forum.
She has given a TEDx Talk on the impact of social media and continues to raise awareness on how to make online content more accessible.
14. Amelia Cook
Amelia launched Anime Feminist, a groundbreaking website dedicated to discussing anime and Japanese pop culture through a feminist lens in October 2016. Amelia is a vocal advocate for fair compensation for her team of diverse writers that are often sidelined in the world of anime fandom and has built her business around that – something we discussed in an interview with her.
In 2018, she’s launching Otagai, a platform for creatives to discuss ways to make money doing what they love.
15. Wendy Zukerman
Wendy is the host of the Science Vs. podcast, which she recently moved from Australia to the US. She tackles controversial topics by sticking to the cold, hard scientific facts.
By bringing science to popular, politicised topics, she’s changing the science journalism game.
16. Isabelia Herrera
As music editor of REMEZCLA, Isabelia’s accomplishments in 2017 include initiating partnerships with NPR and Apple Music, hosting Remezcla’s first music podcast, and being honored on this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30.
At only 25, Isabelia’s passion for music, and race/gender identity has created a diverse insight into the Latin culture. We love her dedication to representing diversity in an inclusive and supportive manner.
17. Alex Petri
Alex Petri has been making us laugh with her column in the Washington Post since 2010. The youngest person to ever have a column in the Washington Post, her satirical take on politics has landed her many fans, including the White House.
Lesley Nneka Arimah is a Nigerian writer whose short stories have appeared in many magazines, including the New Yorker. Her debut novel What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky, a collection of short stories released in October 2017, has already won numerous critical accolades. She is a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, winner of the 2017 Kirkus Prize, and nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize.
The stories explore the black female experience with incredible beauty and lyricism and are totally necessary for your bookshelf.
19. Princess Nokia
Destiny Frasqueri, known by her stage name Princess Nokia, is a queer feminist rapper who first came onto the music scene in 2010. She quickly spurned advances of record companies to become an independent artist.
Her album 1992 is filled with smart, witty lyrics about race, gender and gentrification and her podcast ‘Smart Girl Club Radio’ is further proof that the sky is the limit for this amazing human.
20. Molly Yeh
After attending Juilliard, Molly Yeh packed up her Brooklyn life to move with her husband to a sugar-beet farm in rural North Dakota and took the blogosphere by storm with her food blog, My Name is Yeh.
Molly’s blog filled with stunning food pictures, recipes inspired by her Chinese-Jewish roots, and fun anecdotes about farm life has amassed a loyal following which led to the release of her first cookbook, Molly on the Range, in 2017. We love her beautiful, creative recipes that blend her life on the farm with her cultural roots and a deep love for food.
21. Doreen St. Félix
At only 25, Doreen St. Félix has an impressive resume which includes being the former editor of Lenny Letter, writing for the New York Times Magazine and being listed on Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2016.
Currently, she is a staff writer at the New Yorker. St. Félix’s cultural commentary on everything from Whitney Houston to the Alabama Senate Election keeps us engaged, woke and wanting more.
22. Rochelle Brock
The creator of Fat Leopard Photography, Rochelle Brock, is a 22-year-old Brooklynite is challenging beauty norms through her breathtaking photographs. Brock’s work focuses on inclusive fashion photography that reflects women of all sizes and races. Her images of diverse, confident and gorgeous millennials have taken the internet by storm and we can’t wait to see what waves she makes next.
If you don’t have Rina Sawayama’s mini-album RINA on your playlist yet, you are seriously missing out. Rina’s lyrics explore the messy interaction between femininity and technology. Her sense of style, the penchant for calling out online prejudice, and nostalgic ode to pop music, has got us stanning for this future pop-queen.
24. Mona Haydar
Hailed as “One of the Best Protest Songs of 2017” by Billboard, Syrian-American Mona Haydar’s debut song Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab)became an anthem for Muslim women everywhere. Raised in Flint, Michigan, Mona calls out racism and violence within the Muslim community.
Creator and host Megan Tan began the podcast Millennial as a means of building a portfolio for potential future employers. Little did Megan expect, her podcast, a personal narrative about navigating life post-graduation in her 20’s, would hit a chord with the listeners and become a hit.
After three years of sharing her stories, Megan bid adieu in her last episode in August 2017. Though we miss her insights into life, we know she is just getting started.
26. Sara Shakeel
Sara Shakeel is a Pakistani illustrator and artist who quit dental school to create art in the most unabashed and unfiltered way. Sara’s work came into the spotlight this year when she transformed images of stretch marks by adding glitter and crystals to them.
Her portrayal of stretch marks is a reminder to women everywhere that we have the ability to change the perception of beauty and see flaws as art.
27. Aisha Dee
Acting in television shows since 2008, Aisha Dee is no stranger to our TV screens. In 2017, this young Australian made a splash on MTV’s ‘The Sweet/Vicious’ and then bagged one of the leads on ABC’s breakout hit ‘The Bold Type.’
Whether it be navigating her sexuality as Kat or being a supportive sorority sister as Kennedy, Aisha’s portrayal of young confident millennial women always has us rooting for her every step of the way.
28. Molly Tolsky
In 2017, Molly founded the website Alma, which is geared toward young Jew-ish women or, as the site puts it, “Ladies with Chutzpah.”
The website serves as a platform for Jew-ish women to share their personal stories, from an Orthodox trans* woman writing about being torn between her Jewish identity and the trans* community to speculating about Gwyneth Paltrow’s possible Jewish wedding. We can’t wait to see what Molly has in store for the coming year.
29. Aditi Mittal
Fierce and funny, Aditi Mittal could absolutely be crowned India’s Comedic Queen. One of the first prominent comics in India, Aditi has been featured on BBC World as one of India’s trailblazers and has performed across India, the UK, and Los Angeles.
In 2017, Aditi released her first stand up special on Netflix ‘Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say’. Her unapologetic comedic approach to sexism, misogyny and patriarchy is a reminder that humour can be a powerful tool used to instigate change.
30. Iman Meskini
Iman Meskini is a 19-year-old Norwegian actress who portrays a young, Muslim teenager named Sana Bakkoush on the TV show Skam. In a country like Norway that is predominantly atheist, Iman’s portrayal challenges tropes around Islam being radical, backward, and oppressive.
Iman hopes that her portrayal of Sana will help people to learn how to separate culture from religion. She joined the Norwegian military on a volunteer basis because, as she states, she “enjoys a challenge.” We’re so excited to see how Meskini grows as an actress and advocate for Muslim rights.
31. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer
As a scholar, artist, and activist, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer is revolutionizing the world’s understanding of the intersection between Muslimness and Blackness through her anthropological research and performance art.
Dr. Khabeer brings her research to life through one-woman performances like “Sampled: Beats of Muslim Life,” a performance ethnography on Islam and hip-hop. In addition to this, Dr. Khabeer leads Sapelo Square, an incredible online resource documenting the Black American Muslim experience.
32. Kehlani Parrish
Kehlani Parrish is a 22-year-old African American, Caucasian, Spanish, Filipino, and Native American singer, songwriter, and dancer whose recent album SweetSexySavage (2017) received critical acclaim. She has been nominated for a Grammy, AMA, and BET award.
As a queer person having gone through an attempted suicide, as well as difficulty in her early career, Kehlani is a role model to us for her bravery and honesty.
33. Yara Shahidi
17-year-old Yara Shahidi is well known for her role as Zoey Johnson on Black-ish and her upcoming spin-off Grown-ish, but she is also an activist for representation and diversity in Hollywood. In a recent article for i-D, Shahidi explained that she wants to use her platform as an actor to discuss politics in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Her belief in advocating for the understanding of the “spectrum of humanity” is what we all need in the current political climate around the world.
34. Saher Sohail
24-year-old Saher Sohail, better known as the Pakistani Martha Stewart, is famous for her witty artwork challenging western stereotypes around Desi culture, and oppression within Desi culture itself. Sohail provides a platform for South Asian women to revel in their shared experiences and discuss important political topics.
We’re looking forward to seeing how Sohail’s art will grow in the future!
35. Thi Bui
Thi Bui is the author of The Best We Could Do, a graphic memoir about her family’s immigration from Vietnam to the U.S during the Vietnam War. Bui wrote the novel empathizing with her parents’ experiences as human beings, rather than parents.
In the difficult political climate around immigration in the U.S, Bui hopes that her novel will encourage people to see immigrants as human beings rather than “Others.” We are so excited to see the effects Bui’s book will have on the public, and what she has planned for the future – a nonfiction book about climate change in Vietnam.
36. Nayla Al Khaja
39-year-old Nayla Al Khaja is the first female film director/producer in the United Arab Emirates. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her films, including the Jury Special Prize for “Best Short Fiction” for ‘Animal’ at the Italian Movie Awards in 2017.
Reima Yosif is likely the quietest about the work she does, but if you do some digging around, you’ll definitely find it. She is the Founding President of Al-Rawiya Foundation, a non-profit organization promoting empowerment of Muslim women through education, arts, and integration. As part of her non-profit work, she worked on a research project for Religions for Peace USA, commissioned by UNICEF in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Armed with a diploma in Classical Arabic, she has scholarly licenses to teach books of Hadith and Tafsir – a powerhouse amidst a space that is dominated today by men. She has extensively studied and written on comparative Islamic Jurisprudence. She has translated over 200 Islamic texts into English and is also a published poet.
38. Lena Waithe
In 2017, Lena Waithe won an Emmy for “Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series” for ‘Master of None,’ the first Black woman to do so. Her portrayal of Denise on the show is a revelation: a portrayal of the kind of gay woman that rarely makes it on TV.
Her moving Emmy acceptance speech went viral and had LGBTQIA+ people around the world reaching for tissues. Her next project is a show she created and wrote, ‘The Chi,’ about her hometown on the South Side of Chicago.
39. Jean Liu (Liu Qing)
Jean Liu is the president of Didi Chuxing, China’s largest mobile transportation platform. A breast cancer survivor, mom of 3 and one of very few women executives in the country (in 2015, just 3.2% of CEOs were women).
At the helm of Didi, the company has outperformed its competitors, including Uber!, and is paving the way for the sharing economy to revolutionize China.
40. Becky G
Becky G, a Latina singer, actress, and model, had a pretty busy 2017. Her single Can’t Get Enough with Pitbull charted #1 on the Billboard Latin Charts and she starred in her first film role in the Power Rangers movie franchise.
As the Yellow Power Ranger, not only did Becky G kick some supervillain behinds, but she also knocked out stereotypes with her portrayal as the first visible queer superhero in mainstream cinema.
It might seem hard to believe, but I have Pakistani Muslim friends and family that object to me wearing the hijab.
Not necessarily on the grounds that they worry about my safety, though that is a factor as well. The appearance of a girl in hijab puts other Muslims, particularly from South Asian or Desi backgrounds on an unnecessary defense. My Middle Eastern and convert friends are surprised at the reactions of fellow Pakistani Americans.
But I am not.
Among Muslim communities in the West, we usually see our Arab friends wearing hijab more often than Desis. Desis are more likely to be seen in a loose dupatta while Arabs typically have well-secured scarves.
Some of the Desis with more secure scarves, or with any head-covering, usually come from families where women wear hijab already. This could possibly be why I faced more resistance or felt more tension when my own scarf was well-secured, or on my head at all. I look different, and it seems more deliberate.
Would people in my community have the same qualms and opinions against me if my mother and sisters wore hijab too? No.
They might view my family differently though.
In an attempt to bring light to the cultural resistance that some Pakistanis express against the hijab (and sometimes even the beard) I’ll say this much:
In Pakistan, our identification with our faith, our nation, and our culture tends to blur. It’s almost hard to tell where certain cultural understandings comply with our faith or defy it. For certain groups or individuals, there is a variation in how much our faith applies in our culture if it hasn’t already influenced the culture overall. On top of that, Pakistani Americans are a people who are struggling to integrate.
How we have been going about this has added to the tension between how different communities, families, and individuals operate.
Therefore, I do have to worry about other Muslims’ opinions.
My family gets a kick out of my tendency to answer aunties when they comment on my weight and height, but I’m more limited in my diplomatic options when I get unwarranted remarks on the hijab.
A wrong move gives Pakistanis who are wary of religious attire all the more reason to hold a grudge against it.
Family and friends alike are ready to inform me that there are people who wear hijab (and niqab and burka) who are not “good” people, (ergo probably not “good” Muslims). After nearly two decades on Earth, I had not remained unaware of this possibility. If a person in a hijab, burka, niqab or with a beard has ever acted unjustly in your eyes I can’t apologize for that bad taste in your mouth.
It’s just not up to me.
Not to mention, those who outwardly “look” Muslim aren’t exactly at an overall advantage in the United States.
That being said, hijab is not limited to a culture, but I’ve seen and heard Pakistanis treat it as something that should be excluded from ours.
It’s an interesting type of conservatism, isn’t it? There simply is no fine line between Pakistanis who want to conserve their faith and their cultural identities.
One can be both.
Aside from cultural conservatism, insecurity hides under the tension between Pakistanis and their friends and family who wear hijab. It’s normal for people to worry about being judged by people whose outward appearance reflects their faith.
I know this because I also felt insecure before I wore hijab (I still do, because dressing modestly is hard when the standard is blurry) and people who acted awkward about my decision admitted this issue too. If you walk on eggshells around people who dress a certain way, you are only reinforcing the notion that they may have some higher moral standing than you, and we all know deep down that this does not have to be true.
Neither friends nor family were ever supposed to feel like I hold anything against them for the way they dress. It actually cannot work like that. I just wanted to continue to take pride in my culture without feeling like I had to put my faith behind it.
As people who are constantly judged for their outward appearance, those in hijab or beard ought to know better than to hold someone’s lack of against them.
When you’re a Muslim in the Western world, you carry this weight of ensuring that whatever you do, you don’t leave a negative impression.
You feel this weight most if your name or appearance gives away your identity.
Imagine feeling that weight out and about among non-Muslims and around other Muslims too.
It was not fun to see the friends I grew up with watch as elders made faces at my attire and made comments that I couldn’t respond to.
Though it’s not something that’s easy to smile through, I was okay, more than okay. The concerns of how you look in your scarf and what others think (at times excluding concerns about safety) go through you so easily when you remember why you made this decision.
At that point, nothing else matters.
It goes from something frustrating to something peaceful. In a culture where “what will people say?” is over-emphasized, to remind yourself that people will simply say whatever they say is a reclamation of self-control. Wasn’t the hope that I could prioritize God-consciousness over petty opinions not a heavy factor in my decision?
It will always be a struggle and I wind up back at square one every day, but its worth it for me.
At the end of the day, Pakistanis are mostly harmless about these things (I think). It probably helps that my family has mostly digested my situation. My mother and sisters have stood up for me because you can make fun of your family, but no one else can – and because they have come to somewhat respect my decision. Some of my Desi friends genuinely wanted to look out for me from the start. Some of them didn’t say anything and I knew why.
Things feel okay now though, maybe even more than okay.
[bctt tweet=”In either case, I can’t apologize for ruining family photos by sticking out. ” username=”wearethetempest”]
Some people, including Pakistanis, are actually very kind and tell me that I look beautiful in my scarf out of appreciation of seeing me in it. Many people genuinely want me to be safe and free from discrimination as I proceed through life. Honestly, I do get scared at times- that’s a separate issue though.
Meanwhile, some are still waiting for me to change my mind, and many are surprised that I haven’t yet.
We sat down with Sara Alfageeh, head illustrator, and co-director of the ‘BOY/BYE’ Kickstarter campaign, an amazing fashion x activism project aimed at showcasing women of color through pins, prints, stickers, and patches.
However, the project doesn’t only focus on this but also aims to fund future projects and grow into a tangible community of people from different backgrounds, coming together to share their art.
The Tempest: What inspired you to start the ‘BOY/BYE’ campaign and why the name?
Sara Alfageeh: The true inspiration was the women we know; our friends, family, community leaders, fellow creators, and artists – they are all unapologetic, assertive, and bold in who they are. There is no way I could pretend this was all from me, the inspiration for it was everywhere. The “Somewhere In America #MIPSTERZ” video is an excellent example of this. One of my amazing friends and fellow illustrator, Nancy Marcel, created the “Hijabitches” sticker series, which featured hijabi women as we know them to be – not giving in to the social pressures around them, being defiant and self-assured. I was very lucky to help with the project, and it motivated me to do for other girls what her art did for me.
Then after seeing Sana from the Norwegian show Skam rock a BOY/BYE sweater, and thinking back to Beyonce’s no holds barred vibe on “Sorry,” I got to sketching! BOY/BYE is just a great way of conveying the self-assured sentiment we were going for, while also being the fun and lighthearted feeling we wanted to convey through the art.
How does ‘BOY/BYE’ reflect your values as an artist?
That’s a good question. It took me a long while to embrace my identity in my art. I had to unpack a lot of my own internalized biases of what I understood to be “good art”. Holding back the stories I wanted to share helped no one, especially when positive representation for women of color was so scarce. Of course, a very real pressure comes with that understanding. What I have come to learn, however, is that the most impact you can have in your work is to be as genuine as possible.
If you go in only with the intention of completing a diversity checklist and pat yourself on the back, it’s very transparent and audiences deserve better. A good story will speak for itself. I just want to make rad stuff, and can only hope that it encourages someone out there to make rad stuff too.
What is your take on current representations of women in the media?
That’s a whole topic on its own. There has been some progress, but not nearly enough, particularly for women of color. Experiences of women are flattened to being represented by the same tropes over and over again, their narratives largely dictated by and for men. This is mainly due to the fact that getting access to the right spaces and platforms are also restricted. We need to critique what we’ve been told about all social constructions if we want to progress into a more holistic and comprehensive understanding of each other.
We need more critical thinking, introspection, and understanding of intersectionality – all of which is lacking in the media but something that is sought after by many in my generation. Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Shout-out to MIPSTERZ and The Tempest for trying to create that space and push back on un-nuanced media representations. Social media has changed the game, especially when we work together.
‘BOY/BYE’ focuses on community-building and creating space for underrepresented women. Why do you believe this is important?
BOY/BYE is technically a fundraising campaign for the creation of such spaces via #MIPSTERZ. MIPSTERZ has been putting on rad events that are part TED Talk, part house party, part gallery that brings people of all backgrounds together. Venues are packed with lines down the block every time, so we know the need for these spaces firsthand. The thank-yous that come with donating represent the movement you are championing, one of individual expression and celebration of people putting themselves out there in the world.
Having to defend why women, especially underrepresented women, deserve to be heard as much as a man or a white woman is what is most disconcerting. It is self-evident that all people want a witness to their stories, and they should have the spaces to express themselves and allow their creative pursuits to develop. The distance between creator and audience has closed, you can’t underestimate the real power of crowdfunding, social media, and collaboration. We can change the convention – and keep changing it as new voices come with it.
What are your plans/vision for future fashion x activism crossovers?
We are putting the work out there and letting people define it the way they need it to be. We look forward to continuing the project with more Kickstarters, where if there is no audience for the project it simply won’t happen. The goals and the spirit of it will definitely remain the same, while we pursue new and more ambitious projects we have had lined up for some time. Our larger plan is to hold more community events, with greater frequency and in creative, thought-provoking ways.
We are working hard to create room to celebrate those passions and encourage folks to make an impact in their own circles. There will be more projects coming from me, but you’ll have to tune into MIPSTERZ and me to find out more as it happens!
Every woman who wears the hijab is always on the look out for a sweet place to buy their hijabs from. There are quite a few places all over the world that cater to hijabi fashion but for some reason, it can be weirdly difficult to find the high-quality places worth your money. We’ve got the ultimate rundown.
1. Everybody needs more lace in their life
From the heart of the Midwest, there is a hijab company well-known for their gorgeous hijabs. The hijab pictured is the “White Embroidery Lace Hijab” in Dark Gray. Bella Hijab has this scarf in several colors too: Salmon, Green, Tan, Dark Red, and Blue. ($20 USD)
2. Liven up your outfit with this beautiful scarf
When I think of popular hijabi Youtubers, Amena comes to mind. Her charming wit, elegant British accent, and seasonal modest lookbooks made her iconic. Pearl Daisy is the home of the patented hoojab, which is basically a hood with two long fabric wings to style a hijab with. Here is the “Toffee Chiffon Fringe Pro Hoojab” ($19.38 USD)
3. Potentially your favorite wrap this summer
As Shukr’s website states, “Crafted from luxurious modal, the unique ribbed design will make this your top go-to wrap this season.” The coolest thing about Shukr is that they try their best to be kind and ethical. They’re against sweatshops and insist on paying above market wages to help every worker succeed. The pictured scarf, “Modal Rib Jersey Maxi Hijab” is available in 10 shades. ($24.95 USD)
4. Shine like the star you are
Wouldn’t you like a hijab that is not only stylish but stays put? Artizara is a global company that hopes to engage socially conscious, active women with a wide variety of coverage options. This is called the “Celebrity Lightweight Scarf” and it is available in 12 colors. ($12 USD)
5. Crown yourself like a queen
This company wants you to feel like royalty in this beautiful green scarf. Modanisa is a Turkish-based website with thousands of options for their international clientele. It’s 100% polyester and you can find the “Queen Fringed Shawl” here. ($29.61 USD)
6. Get in touch with your sense of tzniut
Isn’t this “Silver Lining” scarf so beautiful? Originally, this company started as a place for Jewish ladies to purchase cute tichels (which is the scarf style worn by some Orthodox Jewish ladies – same as the picture above). Over time, they expanded and became a company emphasizing their love for all women who cover their hair. What makes Wrapunzel unique is their Wrapunzel kit, which typically includes a variety of scarves, sashes, headbands, and pins. Consider adding this soft “Silver Lining” pashmina scarf to your wardrobe this year! (Originally $16 USD, but on sale at time of publication for $11 USD)
7. Be the hijabi sports icon you needed when you were younger
Asiya is an American hijab company for women in sports. The strength of their mission statement is evident in their devotion to their products. Providing three options for women who cover, Asiya is hoping to enable women worldwide to follow their dreams. One can get a “lite”, “sport”, or “fit” sports hijab from their website for $40 USD.
8. Turn heads in this elegant scarf
Starring the Ilm Chiffon line of hijabs, iLoveModesty is a store many of my friends frequent. The hijab pictured (deep wine red) is not currently available on the site but iLoveModesty carries several other colors in this line. Personally, I am a fan of their “Mahogany Chiffon” hijab. ($14.64 USD)
9. Dazzle your friends with this instant show-stopper
This company combined their two best-selling scarves (the jersey scarf and the glitter scarf) to create a beautiful new idea – the instant glitter jersey scarf. Available in three colors (black, navy, and gray), this scarf is easy to wear and absolutely gorgeous. Sparkle next Eid for only $10.99 USD!
10. Why not wear the rainbow?
A leader in Indonesian fashion, Dian Pelangi is known for her beautiful brand of modest fashion. At this time, one can not purchase her works online, but she does have several boutiques in South East Asia that can be found here. She is a revolutionary designer and internationally acclaimed.
11. The hijab that looks great on everybody
Try a beautiful new viscose hijab this season from Haute Hijab! In fact, they recently improved their viscose wraps so it is softer, stronger, and more durable. This wrap comes in 11 colors but the one pictured is Rose. (I’m also eyeballing their Mauve color in this scarf style.) I seriously think this shade would be flattering on all complexions. ($20 USD)
Do you look like a visible minority? Have you ever had to answer petty questions about your culture? your appearance? Well, Mona Haydar managed to answer all these petty questions with this one badass song with an equally badass video, which has now hit over a million views! Kat and Laila uncover everything from misplaced misogyny to what sparked Mona to step into the music industry and create this dope song.
The 27th of March, Women’s History month, is now marked as Muslim Women’s Day after the hashtag #MuslimWomensDay spread wildly on Twitter, thanks in part to the partnerships between media outlets like Refinery29, Teen Vogue, Muslim Girl, and Equality4Her. Women all over the world proved that they are not afraid to speak up and unapologetically be who they are, whatever that may be.
There may have been some bigots, but hey – here’s to us being amazing.
Though Muslim Women’s Day has now passed, don’t wait until next year to support, ally with and celebrate Muslim women for their amazing accomplishments. Most importantly, celebrate Muslim women for being who they are: amazing.