Last February saw London’s Victoria House, situations in Bloomsbury Square, present London Modest Fashion Week’s spectacularly successful second year. Hosted by Haute Elan, an Innovative Market Place platform, they housed the largest collection of British & international designers under one roof. Haute Elan is the […]
The United Nations has called the Yemen Civil War “the worst humanitarian crisis of 2018”. More than 10,000 people have been killed and 8.4 million are at risk of starvation, reports BBC. What is the Yemeni Civil War About? The Yemeni Civil War is […]
Editor’s note: Behold, the ethereal voice of our own, Binta Kane Diallo, ringing proud and true, saturated with that evergreen #BlackGirlMagic:
In 5th grade, my fellow 10-year-old Ecuadorian immigrant classmate said that I was “as black as the desk.” They say that people will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. In my case, 18 years later, I still remember what she said, and exactly how she made me feel: worthless. This was the point in my life when I realized that being black was not okay.
As a child, I was quite aware that my identity was unique. I was usually the only black, female, Muslim kid with braids, and immigrant-African parents. I was black, but I was never “their kind of black”. Too American for the “real” Senegalese and Gambian kids, too African for the African-Americans, and too black for the Muslims.
So where did I belong? At a time where movies featuring the beauty of Africans, like Black Panther, did not exist, I found my solace in writing, and seeing myself within Marvel comic book characters. I was able to tell myself that what others may find strange in me, was more beautiful and powerful than they could ever know.
If I was never told that my blackness was devalued, I would have never ended up where I am today.
Now, as a first generation, Senegalese and Gambian-American woman in my mid-twenties, I am more comfortable in my skin, and very grateful that GOD chose me to be exactly who I am. If I was never told that my blackness was devalued, I would have never ended up where I am today. I now work at an organization called IMAN, the Inner-City Muslim Action Network in the Arts & Culture department. Here, I am able to bring my complete self to work, and build relationships with people from a variety of rich and diverse communities. Most importantly, I have a sense of belonging. Here, I am not “the other”.
Every year, we host an Artist Retreat that brings together creatives, organizers, and scholars in-community for a few days of reflection, reconnection, and rejuvenation. This year, someone heard me singing and next thing I knew, I was prompted to get on the mic in front of 60 people who identified as artists. I instantly flashed back to an 8-year-old me trying to sing a Whitney Houston song and getting laughed at. After that I never wanted to sing for anyone again.
Back to reality. In the moment, I empathized with Eminem’s character in 8 Mile, B-Rabbit. My palms were literally sweaty, knees weak, arms were heavy…you know the rest. I felt so vulnerable and exposed, yet I somehow summoned the courage to sing. After I finished, I took a deep breath, opened my eyes, and was embraced by an energy and overwhelming love, the likes of which I had never experienced before; unfiltered acceptance.
My community uplifted me; they really saw me. I could have not imagined overcoming my fear without my community.
Alhamdulillah, after the retreat, I started to remember who I was before the world told me who I should be. A creative portal opened; the song lyrics started flowing in. I wrote a song entitled “Black Women.” I was inspired by people who are comfortable with who they are beyond all of the adversities.
Within my own lyrics, I thought about my mother: “We get the work done and bare kin.”
Former First Lady, Michelle Obama: “Never underestimate our worth.”
And Serena Williams: “Yes, we got big lips and got curves, you think we’re angry and absurd, but there’s more to us then you have heard, Black women go!”
I shared my song at IMAN’s farmer’s market, and the way that the audience received my art gave me a sense of empowerment and belonging. I was able to take ownership of myself, my gift, and committed to build a diverse, inclusive, and inspirational platform. I posted the video on Facebook, and in a matter of weeks, it got over 3,200 views. My community uplifted me; they really saw me. I could have not imagined overcoming my fear without my community.
I urge you to be that encouraging person for someone else. Instead of highlighting arbitrary differences, we must see our gifts and power in each other. It’s important to affirm others by seeing and acknowledging their gift, because we do not always see them in ourselves. Sometimes, it takes someone to shed light on our light.
Learn more about Binta and her journey here:
It’s no secret that the festive season is all about hot cocoa, string lights, and…charitable giving of course! There’s nothing sweeter than acknowledging the mercy Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us by acknowledging our positions of comfort and privilege by donating time and resources to […]
For new Muslims nothing can be more daunting than dealing with family members’ reactions to the decision of converting to Islam. Parents, siblings, and other relatives can either shun their newly-Muslim family member, ask very tough questions, make hurtful comments regarding their faith, or even […]
When trying to shop ethically in terms of fashion and beauty, what choices do we as expressive, stylish, Muslim women have? This year saw a wealth of Western publications such as Vogue, celebrities like Emma Watson and Will.i.am, advertising campaigns by H&M and Lush, all promoting ethical buying. Anything from our choice of T-Shirt, to our sanitary products were challenged, and there seemed to be little knowledge or access to modest, sustainable designers and their products in Western media.
Traditionally, global Muslim consumerism was considered a largely untapped market when catering for the fashion-conscious Muslim woman. Thomson Reuters Global Islamic Economy Report (2017) cites that revenue from modest fashion bought by Muslim women was estimated at $44bn in 2015, and will continue to rake in the Muslim dollar. Fantastically, modest fashion is fast becoming a fierce global economic competitor. For example, early 2017 saw the launch of The Modist, the Net-A-Porter of modest fashion, and in December of 2017, Nike released the Pro Hijab to the Middle Eastern market.
Amongst modest fashion’s growing economic success, we see a new platform being erected, and demanding attention. Herald the era of “Modest Sustainable Fashion!” The hype is not without cause as Muslim women, and those who desire modesty with style, now have a myriad of ethical choices from the catwalk. The flair and commitment of Yasmin Sobeih, CEO of “Under-Rapt,” is a prime example of a successful ‘Modest Ethical Designer’.
Yasmin is meticulously aware of her responsibility to source viably sustainable material and dyes, whilst having a ‘fair trade’ employment of garment-makers.
Holistic in her approach, Yasmin is meticulously aware of her responsibility to source viably sustainable material and dyes, whilst having a ‘fair trade’ employment of garment-makers. She belongs to an elite and unique minority of eco-friendly modest fashion designers and retailers, and began making a firm mark in ethical fashion after graduating from the London College of Fashion and Design Merchandising.
Sobeih drew up a business plan that kept Islamic ethics at the forefront of her intentions, whilst simultaneously aiming to transcend religion and culture in her garments. Her designs are inspired by “street style and sweaty hijab-clad friends working out at the gym”. Consequently, Sobeih’s sports and lounge wear is sweat resistant, cooling, and breathable. Having witnessed the trend towards ethical manufacturing, Sobeih firmly believes that consumers want transparency and keeps this ideology at the forefront of her motivations.
Under-Rapt’s philosophy is simple: the buyer knows that the product is 100% organic, along with where fabric was sourced, where it was made, and by whom. By comparing “Under-Rapt” to Nike, Adidas, and Sweaty Betty, Yasmin remains confident in her ability to compete with retail giants, as the fabrics used by popular brands are “not primarily organic or sustainable”. On the other hand, Sobeih can tell you which Beechwood tree grown on agricultural land in Austria her fabric originated from, whereas her “competitors can’t do this.”
“Till We Cover” promotes social inclusion and integration, by collaborating with F.A.D., an award-winning charity supporting the progression of young people in their creative careers.
Echoing the success of eco/social-conscious brands are Ruby Aslam and Shehr Kazmi, the innovative collaboration behind the designer brand, “Till We Cover”. They are part of a growing league of socially-conscious designers who champion a charity and the empowerment of women. “Till We Cover” promotes social inclusion and integration, by collaborating with F.A.D., an award-winning charity supporting the progression of young people in their creative careers.
Ruby and Sehr’s mantra of social inclusion emerges from a belief that “Young people should be able to progress and thrive regardless of personal circumstances, finances or ethnic background.” For Ruby, the importance of “Till We Cover” and working with F.A.D. reflects the “strive to make the design industry more inclusive by pushing forward the diversity of design in different ethnic backgrounds”. Ruby and Sehr’s collective 30 years of experience in the fashion and retail industry has caused them to model their focus on the huge oversight by high-street brands who don’t cater for “women who want to cover lumps and bumps.” Their casual designs are dedicated to a “more relaxed take” on what it is to be modest. This enables “Till We Cover” to cross religious, sizeist, and ageist stereotypes in high-street designs. “Till We Cover” markets themselves as being “all about supporting other brands,” creating a dialogue of inclusion as “modesty encompasses many things, and we all have different challenges.”
It appears that social, environmental, and ethical awareness is on the increase, but we still have a long way to go. The politics surrounding oppression in the fashion industry is at the forefront of social media. Modest designers are a growing army on this platform, creating a new awareness amongst the fashion conscious. Ruby and Sehr recognize the need for growth in the industry, and the need for strong female voices in “a time of individuality in fashion”. “Till We Cover” and “Under Rapt” are original and unconventional modest brands aiming to bridge the gap of Muslim women’s integration into Western society through fashion, whilst promoting ethical buying habits. They are paving the way for the U.K. to take the helm in providing opportunities for modest sustainable designers to be recognized, allowing the consumers to make better, more ethical, choices.
Recently, Airbnb announced its removal of listings of properties in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Although the site lists Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza) as separate from Israel, some properties in Efrat, Ma’ale Rehavam and Tekou are listed in Israel itself. These properties […]
December is here, the holidays are near, and so are finals. This is the worst time of the year for all students (including me), considering we have to learn a whole semester’s worth of material in a few weeks (read: a few days). Yet, somehow, we […]
Last week at a UN assembly, on what is known as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, one man showed his support on the most visible political stage. Marc Lamont Hill, activist, journalist, and contributor at CNN openly and passionately criticized the treatment of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli government, calling for “a free Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
This comment drew immediate rancor and was quickly labelled as anti-Semitic and a possible dog whistle for the eradication of Israel. It wasn’t long before the powers-that-be at CNN sprang into action, firing Hill within hours of his controversial speech; even his job as a lecturer at Temple University seemed to hang in the balance as the institution instantly denounced his comments. Unfortunately, his impassioned speech could not have come at a worse time as the network had been promoting a week-long series which focused on growing anti-Semitism across Europe.
It may seem as though we are stating the obvious here but it seems necessary now; Judaism and Zionism are not one and the same.
Now, while that may have contributed to his termination at CNN, it most certainly was not the only reason for such a quick and adverse reaction. For example, I don’t believe it would be too far a stretch of one’s imagination to deduce that a deciding factor was tied to the identity of the network’s president, Jeff Zucker; proudly Jewish and a staunch supporter of the Israeli state. The irony here, of course, lies in the fact that just last month, Zucker vehemently condemned President Trump’s treatment of the free press after Jim Acosta had his White House press pass revoked following a public confrontation with Donald Trump. This was after Acosta persistently asked pointed questions which the President refused to answer before becoming visibly agitated and referring to Acosta as “very rude”, insisting that CNN should be ashamed of his reporting; a White House staffer then forcibly tried to take his microphone before he was removed from the premises (sans press pass).
This incident was widely-criticized by both Americans and the international media, but none protested louder than Jeff Zucker. He labelled Trump’s contempt and lack of cooperation with the media as antagonistic, even going so far as to state that the President’s constant referral to “fake news” in conjunction with any reporting he didn’t like set a dangerous precedent; one can only speculate what happened to this seemingly unwavering support for journalists who hold those in power to account in the case of Marc Lamont Hill.
The argument for the Israeli right to the land often stems from the belief that it is their divine right, and that the land was promised to them by God, but the idea that ancient religious texts can substantiate modern claims for territories is preposterous and has been widely denounced.
So why the obvious double standard here? It’s simple; Jim Acosta did not offend Jeff Zucker personally, whereas Hill’s political stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict clashed with his own, so he took a page straight out of Trump’s playbook and attempted to punish and silence a journalist because this time, the powers that were being called out and held to account were too close to home.
The hypocrisy of this will, of course, no doubt be overshadowed by the usual cries of anti-Semitism anytime an individual dared to protest the atrocities being committed by Israel, but we must be mindful never to use the cover of misplaced outrage to deflect from the very real suffering that is being endured by Palestinians. It may seem as though we are stating the obvious here but it seems necessary now; Judaism and Zionism are not one and the same. Contrary to popular (and mistaken) belief, one is capable of respecting the religion while simultaneously being opposed to the geo-politics of the state. The argument for the Israeli right to the land often stems from the belief that it is their divine right, and that the land was promised to them by God, but the idea that ancient religious texts can substantiate modern claims for territories is preposterous and has been widely denounced. The region of Israel and Palestine has passed hands many times throughout the centuries; as was wont to happen during such times of imperialism and conquerors.
Looking back as early as the Ice Age, there has been proof of human habitation there, with the first migration of the Homo Erectus (the upright man) out of Africa. This is a land which saw the development of the Homo Sapiens (first intelligent men) and the subsequent creation of the Canaanite states; an ancient civilization of successful merchants who practiced paganism and polytheistic religions, not Judaism. Since then, the region has passed through many hands, including the ancient Egyptians, the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, Alexander the Great and so on until the long reign of the Ottoman empire (four centuries).
This reign was interrupted by the invasion of Muhammad Ali’s Egypt, quickly quashed by the British who restored power to the Ottomans in exchange for further capitulations. Having essentially seized control of the region by proxy, the British government soon issued the Balfour Declaration of 1917; a letter to Lord Walter Rothschild from Arthur Balfour (Foreign Secretary), stating that the British government supported the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Not a month later, they captured Jerusalem and in 1922 the League of Nations awarded Britain a mandate over Palestine. Soon enough, the mass migration of Jews into the region began, and following the harrowing atrocities of the Holocaust, there was growing pressure for the establishment of an independent Jewish state and in 1948, the Jews of British Palestine declared the State of Israel.
Completely disregarding the Partition Plan which was set in place, Israel overran far more territory than was agreed upon and over 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and displaced as the bitter war for control of the region ensued.
An entire country was dissected and handed out like pieces of candy because of what started as a favor to a powerful, Jewish aristocrat from the British government. The international community cheered for the victory of a people who had suffered immeasurably at the hands of a Nazi government, never stopping to contemplate the new suffering they would inflict on the people of Palestine.
Completely disregarding the Partition Plan which was set in place, Israel overran far more territory than was agreed upon and over 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes and displaced as the bitter war for control of the region ensued. With military assistance and funding from America and legislative support from Britain, Israel took over most of Palestine, killing and pillaging as people resisted; scenes so eerily familiar to the ones their people had just recently survived in Germany and Poland. The difference here was that the plight now befell Arab Muslims who were dehumanized, and received no sympathy from the international community.
The Jewish community has suffered unbelievable persecution and are deserving of respect, compassion and a home, but none of these facts entitle them to get away with mass murder, illegal occupation and attempts at eradicating an entire nation of people.
And when they did? Well, just take a look back at the swift backlash and incensed cries of anti-Semitism aimed at prominent figures in the past who have questioned Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Look no further than the reason this very article is being written; a man losing his livelihood because he dared to oppose the politics of a state which seems to be universally off-limits in the way of criticism. Marc Hill has now been forced to issue an apology for his words at the UN, a worrying pattern that has emerged constantly as all of Israel’s naysayers have been silenced under threats of being labelled publicly as anti-Semites.
The Jewish community has suffered unbelievable persecution and are deserving of respect, compassion and a home, but none of these facts entitle them to get away with mass murder, illegal occupation and attempts at eradicating an entire nation of people. It was not so long ago that this very cruelty faced their own community, but victimhood in the past does not justify unchallenged bigotry and xenophobia in the present.
While Hill’s calls for a one-state solution (a secular, democratic state which represents Jewish and Palestinian citizens equally) may be unrealistic in the current state of affairs, we must not be afraid, bullied or silenced into passive agreement as Palestine is slowly erased. While we fight anti-Semitism and the bigoted minds who would spread hatred of the Jewish community, we must also reserve the right to criticize a state that is hiding behind the horrors of WWII to commit the modern genocide of the Palestinians. We must stand with Marc Lamont Hill and all heroes who would jeopardize their personal futures to give voices to the voiceless. We must learn to separate state from religion, giving all due respect to the Jewish people, but with the unwavering commitment that we stand with Palestine. Fear-mongering no longer has a place in politics; this is a new time and while religion and politics can often be interchangeable, they are not mutually exclusive.
“It is not possible to be in favour of justice for some people and not be in favour of justice for all people.” – Dr Martin Luther King
The holiday season is upon us! Christmas decorations have been gracing stores since late-September, while Christmas trees and snowflakes made an appearance in October. In the rush of all things red and green, Thanksgiving seemed to disappear. As I drive, I can see brightly-lit Christmas […]