OPINION: Freedom of expression is not a form of oppression

By Yasmeen Sheikah, Staff Reporter

Halima Aden is the first hijab-wearing model to be featured in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit edition. The Muslim community has been torn between praising a hijabi for representing us and saying the magazine is too controversial for a Muslim woman.

While many expressed their negative opinions of the magazine cover via social media, I personally thought it was exceptional to see a Muslim woman on the cover of a magazine which caters mostly to non-Muslim people. Not only is Aden a Muslim woman, she is also a woman of color on the front cover of a well-known magazine. This does not happen often.

Shane Tolentino

When Nike released its active hijab line in December 2017, many people were against it because they saw it as a sign of supporting the oppression of women. When will people stop calling one of the largest religions in the world oppressive for its teachings? If women choose to wear a nun’s habit or tichels, nobody thinks anything of it, but when Muslim women wear loose clothing and scarves on their heads, internet trolls come out of their caves to let those women know their derogatory opinions.

The modeling industry has recently started to include models wearing hijabs as part of what they see as cultural acceptance. However, it seems the industry is not looking at the hijab as a symbol of modesty, but rather a trend or a phase. As a Muslim woman, I am more than a girl who looks good in a scarf. The modeling industry should promote modesty as another form of body positivity, just as it has supported nudity.

As a Muslim woman, I was never told to dress a certain way, and the hijab was never forced upon me. I can wear whatever I want, and I choose to wear the hijab, not only as a symbol of my religion but as a symbol of who I am.

Many Muslim women do not wear the hijab but still dress modestly as it is preached in Islam. The way a woman dresses and acts is not the only thing to know about her, yet in the modern day, it is almost a shock to see a Muslim woman in the media at all.

We live in a day and age when body positivity and acceptance are trending—as they should be—but we forget that accepting differences also includes accepting different cultural and religious practices.

Muslim women are still women. Many people don’t equate us the way they should because they are afraid of change. People hide behind their computer screens and continuously put Muslim women down for the way they dress, and it is disgusting.    We talk about making a change, but there are not enough people trying to implement it. Equality, diversity and acceptance are not bad words. I hope people will not only begin to use these terms, but will actually begin to mean what they say.