An Open Letter to Bar Refaeli on Her Shamefully Islamophobic Ad
The first thing I’d like you to know is that before today, I hadn’t heard of you. I didn’t know you were a model, a business woman, or that you had millions of followers on Instagram. I didn’t know a thing about you. And I don’t mean that to be hurtful, or petty, but simply to tell you that my first image of you was in a niqab. I saw a woman who then tore off the niqab and hijab to celebrate her apparent ‘freedom’ in a Hoodies ad.
So, I think it’s fair to say that the image I have of you isn’t one of your beauty, your success, or your influence. Rather it’s of your complete and utter disregard for the millions of Muslim women you have offended by participating in an ad that not only questions our freedom of choice, but fuels Islamophobia altogether.
But by participating in the Hoodies ad and ripping off the niqab and hijab to demonstrate some sort of liberation proves that you have no idea what those coverings mean to Muslim women.
I’d first like to tell you that I am a Muslim woman who does not currently wear the hijab. The reason I say ‘currently’ is because I have worn the hijab in the past, and I chose to take it off. I also know that one day I will certainly put it back on, God willing, not because I will be forced, but because the love for hijab is something I have in my heart. The point is however that I have always had the freedom to choose when I wanted to wear the hijab, and when I wanted to take it off. Meanwhile, there are millions of women who do wear the hijab of their own free will.
But by participating in the Hoodies ad and ripping off the niqab and hijab to demonstrate some sort of liberation proves that you have no idea what those coverings mean to Muslim women. Instead of trying to understand why Muslim women cover, you in fact took away our freedom by making assumptions about the women who choose to cover in the first place. You further perpetuated the ideology that Muslim women are oppressed, and unable to make their own choices. You pushed the agenda that only uncovering and showing off our bodies equals to freedom for women.
For decades women have been told what to wear, and how to dress, so I say that freedom is letting a woman wear as much, or as little as she chooses.
Let me make it clear that for many women, not just Muslims, dressing modestly and covering our bodies is important to us. Hoodies stated that this commercial was designed to ‘call out racism and bigotry and support freedom,’ but are you only free when you are taking off your clothes? Shouldn’t freedom mean that we are able to choose what we want to wear, whether it means taking something off, or leaving something on? For decades women have been told what to wear, and how to dress, so I say that freedom is letting a woman wear as much, or as little as she chooses.
This commercial doesn’t call out racism and bigotry; it fuels it. It fuels the idea that Muslim women can’t make their own choices. It fuels the idea that Muslim women aren’t free, and that we need saving. Let me make it clear that Muslim women are strong, independent women, who choose to dress the way they want.
The violence and hate that Muslim women face in the West for covering their hair is just as much a threat to our freedom as are the places that force women to cover.
I can acknowledge that there are cases and places where women are forced to dress in a way they may not want to, but to generalize that all of us are forced to cover is bigoted on its own. And forcing someone to uncover is just as bad as forcing someone to cover. The violence and hate that Muslim women face in the West for covering their hair is just as much a threat to our freedom as are the places that force women to cover. So if your intent was indeed to push for freedom, you certainly missed the mark.
What’s more frustrating is the amount of influence you seem to carry. I can admit that I looked you up on the internet after seeing this commercial, and you have millions of people who follow your work. You are a mother, and a woman yourself. So I can say that I, along with millions of other women, are disgusted by the insinuation that we are not free and the only way we will be free is by disobeying God, which is the real reason we choose to cover. And what’s more is that you have shared this ad, this lie, with your millions of followers to further fuel hate and assumptions about us.
You may, or may not agree with me. You may avoid this incident altogether until it blows over…for you. But I can tell you that you have influenced millions with this commercial, and although you have the convenience of waiting for this uproar to blow over, Muslim women will have to face the repercussions of this blatant Islamophobia for the days, months, and even years to come.
I don’t know if there is anything you can do to rectify the situation, but I certainly hope that you will try.