I’ve recently become an avid watcher of the YouTube Muslim fashion power duo known as Sid and Dina, an extension of Dina Torkia’s blogging, where she and her husband offer problem-solving advice to their fans’ emails. I must admit that it’s rather addictive and the only reason I came across them was because I’d heard of Dina and watched some of her hijab tutorials. Anyone who’s mildly aware of hijabi fashion bloggers will have heard of Dina Tokio, YaztheSpaz, Nabiilabee, Pearl Daisy and the list goes on and on. But a recent video about the Muslim fashion blogging industry questions their existence. In a nutshell, it shows that hijabi fashion bloggers are an artificial intelligence system designed to appeal to Muslim women to control us and are therefore in a particular mould so that we want to be like them and ultimately become ‘meta-colonised’.
Truth be told, the actual execution of the video is simply ridiculous and although it’s satire, from the Facebook comments it seems some Muslims have taken it seriously. A quick search of the names in the credits brought up no results, except for who was behind the ideas – William Barylo, who seems to be the only real person behind the video and an expert on how dominant social norms impact us. I have a problem with the idea that Muslim women are being brainwashed through an AI system created by Google executives and academics as it’s not only ludicrous, it’s downright insulting. It assumes that we hold so low an opinion of ourselves that we’ll let ourselves be made insecure by people on a screen. It’s also interesting how this is another way to put the spotlight on Muslim women’s dress; I’d have thought the consumption of pornography by Muslim men would be far more damaging and have more profound effects on Muslim society than Muslim women buying makeup. Where’s the video on their obsessive consumption of women’s bodies that is quite literally destroying families? But of course, it’s so much easier to police women.
What’s problematic for the bloggers is that it dents the hard work and passion of those who are truly talented with the work they do to have made a successful career as designers and makeup artists by portraying them to be controlled or as part of a conspiracy theory. Let’s be frank – were it not for these women, places like H&M, New Look, Primark, Zara and other high street shops wouldn’t have ‘modest clothing’ aimed at Muslim women. Muslim women would have remained excluded from the clothing industry, Debenhams wouldn’t have taken on Muslim clothing company, Aab, and Modest Fashion Week wouldn’t exist. There are certainly problems with this being the first place for Muslim women to be acknowledged and we have a long way to go before we can be heard in the truly important places, however this has brought our existence and our requirements to the fore and has created awareness about our very visible need to be covered as part of our faith. Therefore, to undermine Muslim fashion bloggers as part of a bigger plan to control our minds would seem to go against what the ‘colonisers’ want – to make us like them. If anything, modest clothing being sold so widely would mean the complete opposite of that.
All things considered, the video wasn’t completely without merit. There is a serious problem with how much mindless consumerism has become the norm and has seeped into the Muslim mindset – we are consuming more than ever and care little for how clothing is produced. We overlook the moral and ethical principles behind the manufacture of these products and are happy to spend endless amounts of money to create a market that is worth billions for companies to invest in. Moreover, the underlying racism in our mindsets is only reinforced through fashion, and this goes across the board, not just for Muslims. I have watched enough contouring videos to see how ridiculous it has become as a concept. It’s one thing to use makeup to enhance your God-given features and it’s another to use three different shades of foundation and concealer to completely change how you look to emulate fair-skinned bloggers with ‘perfect’ features. Newsflash – these bloggers do the same thing. That’s why contouring works. No one looks like that when they wake up. In this respect, meta-colonisation is a truth and it exists. The video was accurate in showing us how easily we’ve bought into these values and want to look like a completely different race; it shows how normalised celebrity culture has become for us and perhaps if there is any conspiracy theory here, it’s how susceptible we are to targeted advertising by YouTube, Facebook and Google. We need to learn to be more conscious of not just the products we consume but also what we allow our minds to consume.
There is also an argument that hijab has become a fashion statement through these videos; this is illogical. Any woman who wears hijab, be it in a fashionable way or otherwise, knows that it is a difficult thing to practice in a society where it is far from compulsory and to summon the strength to wear it full-time without any sneaky ‘days off’ or time out has to be done out of a strong conviction of what God has commanded of us. It’s done out of piety and consciousness of our Lord and to undermine these intentions by calling it a ‘fashion statement’ insults the hardship of wearing hijab itself. The fashion aspect is wearing it in certain styles, using certain materials and pairing hijabs with certain items of clothing or makeup, not the wearing of the hijab itself. Assuming someone’s intentions based on how a woman wears hijab is judgemental and typical of the ‘haraam-policing’ that exists among Muslims. On the flipside, we need to be heedful of how we justify our inane consumerism to keep our hijab on. We shouldn’t have to constantly ‘buy buy buy’ to hold onto our conviction in Allah’s Command.
Taking this video into account, I can safely say that I haven’t fallen into the dystopian brainwashing of Muslim women, or I’d like to think I haven’t. But as with everything, we should keep things in conscious moderation; that includes mindless consumerism under the guise of faith, analysing and renewing our intentions for covering ourselves and ensuring that we aren’t holding onto values entrenched in racism and colonialism to appease our personal insecurities to look a certain way. We also need to support those Muslim women who might not be as thin, fair-skinned or fit the normalised stereotypes of beauty so that we don’t fall into the very trap we claim to avoid. If we claim that the Muslim women’s fashion market is meant to be inclusive of everyone, we need to check ourselves to ensure we aren’t losing our faith and our principles in a bid to be accepted through our appearance. We need to avoid being meta-colonised.