Talk about the Islamic headscarf has long been the preserve of acrimonious debates over fundamentalism, women’s rights and freedom of expression. Blasting intolerance on all sides, Jana Kossaibati presses her right to dress as she pleases – and to do so hijab style.
Jana’s blog, which claims to be the UK’s first style guide for Muslim women, is one of a growing number of websites where women may find out how to mix cultural heritages from different Muslim countries to complement Western styles.
Jana says she first set out to fill a void: there was simply nothing around to tell women how to take care of their appearance while meeting Muslim requirements for dress. Her blog offers tips for girls eager to anticipate seasonal trends and combine fabrics tastefully, without being ostentatious. But, she says, hijab style is not about what’s “hot” or the latest fad.
Purple Print: "This printed tunic is knee-length so perfect for wearing with wide leg jeans. Add a cardigan for arm coverage, and a co-ordinating scarf to complete the outfit."
Spring Maxi: "Maxi dresses are perfect for Spring/Summer. The loose fit is perfect for hijab and will also keep you cool in warmer weather. Just add a cardigan or long sleeve top, simple scarf and neutral accessories to finish it off."
"The whole point of my blog is for Muslim women to take the headscarf (...) out of the political sphere"
Jana, 19, is a medical student in London and the author of the Hijab Style blog.
If I were to use one word I would describe hijab style as “dignified”, though it varies hugely from country to country. The difference is in its aim, which is primarily to remain modest, and cover the body appropriately as my faith has taught me to do. If I were to try something that turned out to be tight-fitted, I wouldn’t buy it.
I would describe myself as style-conscious as opposed to fashion-conscious. I don’t wish for my appearance to be dictated by trends. But I do take an interest in the way I present myself… Some critics say I am contradicting myself. But our religion is very clear about this: the Prophet took care of his appearance and encourages us to do the same.
I don’t think the hijab actually attracts more looks from other people; it attracts different looks. Some are looks of interest, others may be hostile. But overall the hijab protects me from the people who might judge me by my looks, and treat me as an object. It opposes the use of the body, and especially of women, as a commodity. I illustrate this point with the simple fact that if you walk down any street in Europe, women's bodies are being used to sell everything from cars to cooking oil.
I disagree completely with the French ban on headscarves in schools and public buildings. It’s no better than forcing someone to wear a headscarf against her will. At the end of the day, both are restrictions to our freedom. In Islam, your actions are judged according to the intention behind them; so one shouldn’t wear a hijab just to please her parents.
The whole point of my blog is for Muslim women to take the headscarf into our hands, out of the political sphere and firmly back where it belongs as part of our clothing choices and nothing more. I feel it is a sad reflection of the misunderstanding of hijab when I am posed questions like “do wearing the headscarf and fighting for women's rights contradict each other?”