Blogger and activist Quratulayn Haamidah says that the multi-billion dollar Islamic clothing market is making a mockery of the Islamic concert of modesty, and in the worst cases is linked to Israeli oppression.
The challenge for a practising sister in search of some unique wear is real.
Whether it’s the Islamic shops which evolve their designs at breakneck speeds, or the tailor-made world where Auntie gets frustrated when she is politely told that she has seriously messed up what was meant to be the pinnacle of bespoke attire.
As for those Muslim outlets that do offer quality abayas, scarves and niqabs, the premium quite often outweighs the form factor. The challenge is real.
Cue the rise of the corporate fashion industry taking advantage of Muslim accoutrement needs, which greatly diversifies the options for the budding Muslimah.
Multi-billion dollar Islamic clothing market
There is little doubt that the Islamic clothing market is growing. According to one report, the global Islamic clothing market size is expected to reach USD 88.35 billion by 2025.
Key players like House of Fraser and H&M have been making sure they get a slice of this hefty halal cake, selling branded scarves and “modest” sportswear. And this potential is just the tip of the iceberg when one considers how fashion companies are trying to crack the wealthy Arab states in the Middle East.
There is, however, something “off” about the corporate commodification of “modesty” or shame – that quality which is beloved to Allah (Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 17).
The most obvious issue is the notion of “modesty” or shame being driven by a fashion industry that focuses more on denuding the human subject rather than clothing her. Quite often, cake-faced “modesty models” are brandished in the most obtuse position wearing barely-there turban-like scarves, and clothing which quite clearly contradict the Shari’i conditions of hijab.
The matter becomes not what pleases Allah, but what pleases the self, and the whim of fashionistas. Some, quite clearly, cannot see the wood from the trees when they claim they do not want to be sexy for men but “sexy for themselves.”
Tied into this mess is the flawed logic of representation politics; I am loath to celebrate Muslimahs entering the fashion industry which premises itself on flaunting, be it bikinis or burkinis.
And moreover, you don’t need a Marxist analysis or “be woke” to see the potential Capitalist cannibalisation of local Islamic shops and Muslim businesses which are striving to make a living.
There is, however, another unsettling consideration, which has perhaps been lingering in the consciousness of many Muslimahs but has been thrust to the fore in recent weeks due to the cowardly actions of the Zionist regime against Masjid Al-Aqsa and the Palestinians.
The Israeli connection
It is well-known that beauty products, such as MorrocanOil, use Palestinian resources, with their parent companies based in illegal settlements.
It is also not surprising to see seething Islamophobia and Zionist bullying emerge in the aftermath of the bombardment Gaza. This was apparent in messages sent from the head designer at the fashion chain Zara, Vanessa Perilman, to a Palestinian model who was supporting Palestine. Zara, which has stores across the Middle East and North Africa, and sells “modesty” wear, has yet to publish a formal response.
However, troubling also is a hitherto uncommented angle on the fashion industry and Israel: Israeli security tech.
According to a recent expose by the journalist CJ Werleman, one of Britain’s biggest fashion retail companies, ASOS, is using security technology that not only raises concerns about customer privacy, but also has been developed by former IDF military and intelligence heads and operatives.
According to the author: “These partnerships between ASOS and Israeli security tech companies that have ties to Israeli military and intelligence units raise a number of ethical concerns. The fact that these companies have been used extensively to carry out mass surveillance and political blackmail in the occupied Palestinian Territories is particularly alarming. Thus, whether or not these companies have collated or used behavioral biometrics collected from their customers’ devices without their explicit knowledge or consent should be disclosed.”
In other words, ASOS seems to have no qualms using questionable tech developed by individuals complicit in the oppression of Palestinians. Indeed, some of the tech seems to have been developed on Palestinians. What is to say that individuals working in these Israeli tech firms were not called into support the assault on Gaza, which resulted in 258 deaths, 66 of whom were children?
Last year, ASOS proudly announced in its fashion feed that it was “speaking up” and they were “anti-racist.” As Werleman’s investigation also noted, ASOS claimed they would examine “every area” of ASOS. We were told to believe them too. However, dodgy security tech developed by those complicit in supporting apartheid and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians seems to have been missed during their examination of “every area” of ASOS.
This issue hits close to home for me. I personally know relatives and friends who happen to be ASOS customers precisely due to the “modesty” options available. In 2019, ASOS, following H&M, jumped on the “modesty” bandwagon, for which it was lauded for its modesty collection and “modest fashion representation”. ASOS no doubt has intentions to carve a piece of the pie in the Arab world too.
So, whilst ASOS elicits cash from Muslims under the guise of “modesty fashion,” it also shamelessly uses tech companies born from the Israeli military and intelligence machine, which was seen in action to horrifying effect against Masjid Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian people.
So much for “fashion with integrity”. Sorry ASOS. I don’t believe. My friends and relatives, for sure, have been put off by ASOS’s hypocrisy. As for me, I’ll take Auntie over ASOS any day of the week.