In 2008, Samantha Iman did what any other young American usually does — she applied for a job. However, what began as an interview at her local mall flourished into a national movement, and it showed us that the now 24-year-old is anything but a “follower.” What happened to Samantha on that day 7 years ago forever changed her life, as well as the lives of Muslim women all across America.
Rewinding a little into Samantha’s childhood, we learned that Sunday School was a big part of her life as she was growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “The majority of my parents’ friends were Muslim, so my faith was always a part of my life,” she shared. “I started wearing hijab at the age of 13, and like most I went through an awkward phase of how to dress while wearing hijab, like wearing things that shouldn’t be layered together or always wearing “babytees” with a long sleeve shirt underneath… it was not cute,” she added.
But on the day of Samantha’s job interview, there was no babytee to be found, nor any awkward layering. There was, however, a black scarf wrapped around her head as she began the interview at Abercrombie Kids. Her interviewers ultimately denied her employment based solely on their assumption of her faith, deciding that having a conspicuously Muslim employee wouldn’t fit in with their “image.” Samantha refused to take this “no” silently and eventually sued Abercrombie for their discriminatory decision.
Little did she know that seven years later, her case would stand in front of the Supreme Court of the United States — bringing Islam and religious freedoms on the national stage.
With a groundbreaking 8-1 win, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – which sued on Samantha’s behalf — reassured American-Muslims of our rights in the workplace, especially in regards to free religious expression.
“I am proud that I was able to take this case as far as I did; it wasn’t just about Islam, it was about all minorities who have ever been discriminated by,” she expressed. We agree, it was a monumental moment for a lot of different people. Samantha’s case proved that not only are these instances a reality for many minorities, especially hijab-wearing Muslim women, but they can be defeated as well. The system that works so hard to bring us down and mold our appearance to reflect a “certain image,” can be broken.
While Samantha remains a fierce warrior for Muslim women, symbolizing one of the greatest victories for our community, she also serves as a style icon and role model who braids together so gracefully the various layers of her life: the religious, personal, and professional. Her Instagram is on fire, and I dare you to resist scrolling through her gorgeous outfits, wedding photos, and travel tidbits.
When it comes to style inspiration, Samantha loves Mary Kate Olsen’s chic style, and she confessed her guilty pleasure of loving all things Kylie Jenner, too. In addition, the city of London is her ultimate global inspiration. “I recently visited and was in love with how diverse and fashion forward it is,” Samantha shared.
We even received a crash course on the best way to rock Instagram photos. “Take pics outside or where there is a lot of sunlight! Lighting is everything. Also, change it up; don’t over selfie it.” Noted!
That wasn’t the only tip she had to share; when we spoke to Samantha, she was full to bursting with advice and guidance, not just for her bevy of followers, but for our readers as well. There may be a common struggle among all Muslim women, but she recognizes that girls in different age groups face varying challenges. It’s a harsh world out there guys, and we hope this helps:
TO GIRLS WHO WEAR HIJAB IN THE WEST RIGHT NOW:
- Be yourself, and be confident in who you are and what you stand for. Always set the example for other Muslims; being a hijabi means you are basically a walking “advertisement” for all Muslims around the world because, unlike other Muslims, you wear a hijab, which is a symbol of Islam.
TO 10-YEAR-OLD MUSLIM-AMERICAN GIRLS:
- Learn as much about your faith as you can because the sooner you practice your faith, the easier and faster it’ll become a habit.
TO 15-YEAR-OLD MUSLIM-AMERICAN GIRLS
- Don’t try to fit in, be yourself. Be confident in who you are and what you believe.
TO 20-YEAR-OLD MUSLIM-AMERICAN GIRLS
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Nowadays, I feel like we try so hard to be like others. It’s cool to be inspired, but be careful not to follow someone who may be considered a bad influence. For example, I love Kylie Jenner, but that doesn’t mean if she does something, I should do it too.
Samantha is firmly committed to the religious significance of the headscarf. “If it’s being worn for fashion or political reasons, it’s for the wrong reasons, in my opinion.” With that being said, she has choice words for Muslim men who have lots of “thoughts” on the hijab: “It’s none of your business how someone wears their scarf, so keep your opinions to yourself. Please and thank you.”
While Samantha has thousands of fans, she says that her husband is her biggest supporter and keeps her grounded by sharing his opinions with her.
“With the Abercrombie case, he was very protective and made sure I didn’t over-think any of the awful comments that would be all over social media. And if my feelings did get hurt, he would snap me out of it with all the positive I needed to hear,” she added.
Although her groundbreaking court case and love for fashion have both become extremely powerful things in Samantha’s life, she shared that it was actually the importance of Islam that truly shaped her as a person, and is the main reason she is where she is now.
“If it wasn’t for my faith, I wouldn’t have a purpose in this life.”
Co-written by Nihal Qawasmi.