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I’m Muslim, but I’m Not the Poster Child for Islam

I’m Muslim, but I’m Not the Poster Child for Islam

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All Photos By Clos Productions

 

I blog from the heart. I don’t have 10 blog posts in the queue or any idea of what I’ll say prior to writing. I basically blog about anything that pops into my head at the moment: an idea, a pattern, controversy, or clichés. A very disorganized blogger to say the least. But I feel that it brings about this certain spontaneity that I’ve come to love and enjoy.

Some days I’m an OK Muslim and other times I drop the ball, fall into a bowl of hot soup, tumble down a mountain, and land face first into a puddle of mud.

Yesterday, I brought a good friend and vintage store owner a hearty bowl of chili. She’s just as wacky as me and we vibe. She wants me to headline one of her in-store events. Talk about perseverance and failure. As we chatted about the logistics and how I felt about the event, the conversation took an interesting turn.

Now, she isn’t Muslim, but I am. Some days I’m an OK Muslim and other times I drop the ball, fall into a bowl of hot soup, tumble down a mountain, and land face first into a puddle of mud. Yes, it’s true. Unfortunately, I’m not the poster child for Islam as many think or believe.

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MUA: Madinah M.

 

But let’s go back a bit.

I told her that I may have a possible collaboration with a male model coming up.

“This might cause some controversy. Ya know because I’m Muslim and all,” I divulged.

“This would be such a cool topic to discuss,” she said. “Muslim women in artistic fields. Where is the line drawn between art and religion?”

I pondered the question for a bit. Where was the line drawn for me? Then I thought of Noor Tagouri, the covered hijabi who was featured in Playboy. How did she feel when she made the decision to collaborate with an established “sex” magazine? Did she understand the “Haram Police” backlash that she ultimately got? As a public figure, would I be tested with the same opportunities?

My friend then asked, “So what if Vogue called you right now and offered to have you on the cover of the magazine, but only if you pose with a man with his shirt off. Would ya do it?”

I didn’t even have to think about it. It’s Vogue, for goodness sake. “I mean, I wouldn’t have an issue with it, but I’m sure some Muslims would.”

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Model: Leah V.

 

But then things got really confusing inside my head. As a Muslim woman, why wasn’t I outraged at Noor for being in Playboy? Why wasn’t I uncomfortable modeling with a male? What’s wrong with me? Am I like half a Muslim or something? And the rocks started to fall. I thought about all the shoots I’ve done and my clothes being tight, the lipstick heavy, and I rocked a turban and not traditional hijab. What kind of role model was I being for young Muslim girls? Was I teaching them the wrong rules? Am I saying that it’s okay to go against Islamic guidelines? Rules are set for a reason.

Oh, boy.

On the flip side, I argue, what does an ‘acceptable’ Muslim look like? Sound like?

When I first started blogging, I never said I was Muslim. If people assumed or asked, that was one thing. But most people just thought I covered my hair for style purposes. Why did I do this? Because I didn’t want to shame Islam. I didn’t want people to get me confused with what a “good” Muslim girl looks like. So, I hid it because it was easier. It’s always easier to run away instead of hitting the issue head on.

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Styling: Leah V.

 

On the flip side, I argue, what does an “acceptable” Muslim look like? Sound like?

I haven’t found out yet and I probably never will. I know so many Muslims on different levels of deen and life. Some are very horrible people, the scum of the earth while others are the sweetest and most caring individuals you’d ever meet.

Is it possible for religion, spirituality, and art to go hand in hand? Or will there always be a tug of war between these identities?

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One thing I do know is that art and expression are life for me — just as my identity is being a Muslim. Is it possible for religion, spirituality, and art to go hand in hand? Or will there always be a tug of war between these identities?

I remember when I was little, I wanted to take up ice-skating and cheerleading. Both had a uniform of tights and leotards or short skirts. Mom wasn’t going to let me do them because I was Muslim and Muslim girls didn’t show their curves. As a kid, I was so limited. I couldn’t do anything fun and be Muslim. I couldn’t write stories that had kissing in them and be Muslim. I couldn’t go to prom and be Muslim. I couldn’t say anything wrong and be Muslim! Being Muslim as a child and teen wasn’t an amazing time for me.

What I wanted to ask was what could I do as a Muslimah…

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I believe that’s why I am so “out there” with my expression and art today because I was stifled for so many years. Unable to explore and experiment.

So to tie all this randomness in, I say that I’m not a poster child for Islam, but in saying that have I just become the poster child for Islam? LOL. Have I become what one of the “real” Muslim women in 2016 looks like?

I don’t know. You be the judge.

xoxo,

Leah V.

View Comments (21)
  • I can definitely relate. Thank you for speaking out about a topic that (I feel) only younger Muslims are willing to broach. Plus, you’re stunning!

    • “Plus, you’re stunning!”
      Yes, stunning indeed. If a cross between a walrus and a whale is stunning. A baby elephant would be far cuter, though. A person who hogs food all day when half the world is starving can not be a Muslim. More of a garbage truck at best. But the best is yet to come.

        • “I also think baby whales are cute *winks*”
          Agreed, yet there is nothing more beautiful than a woman – as Allah made her. Since you still retain a healthy sense of humor that He gave you – you were not offended but rather took in good humor the brutal confrontation with harsh truth from someone as abrasive as I – considering all the misfortune you have had, I will go out on a limb and give you a couple of hints to get the rest of you in sync.
          #1. Eat very high quality highly nutritious wholesome Hallal food in very small quantities. Never eat to a full stomach. Do not eat anything derived from a chain of cruelty to animals … is by definition Harram. It transfers soul pain, spiritual ‘curse’ from it to you.This ‘Karmic” equation will be balanced at your expense.
          #2. Consider your body as sculpted by Allah for that is what He has stated in the Qur’an. You owe Him to take care of it in the best manner possible. Your body is not a garbage disposal. Don’t treat it as such. The best of the best for it only. But in very small quantities.
          #3. Prophet MuhammadPBUH had recommended to never fill you stomach to satiation. I/3 with solid food, 1/3 with liquid/water, 1/3 to be left empty. Drink plenty of water.
          #4. Exercise one hour of aerobics before sunrise. And Thirty minutes of intense nonstop weight training in the afternoon. No TV what so ever except one day a week.
          #5. Do this for six days a week. The first week should be the hardest one in your life. At 21days things will begin to change in your mind, brain and body. In six week you will sense the change in you. At six months the World will. I promise.

          • I appreciate that Leah took it in good humour so I’m not going to roll up in here and get all furious on her behalf. But if you’re going about preaching the Prophet’s sunnah, here’s a hadith you can do with listening to “He who believes in Allah and the Last Day must either speak good or remain silent.” In other words stfu cheers xoxo

          • how about…you shut your mouth? and stop posting negative shit? let a woman exist for oNE MOMENT without some asshole trying to scrutinize her. so what if she doesn’t look how you like? it’s not any of your business to tell a woman how to dress or eat or behave. if you believe it’s god’s duty or will, then leave that to her and allah.

  • As salaam aleykum, my sister. I know Muslims who would never consider going outside without a hijab, others who wear short skirts. If we follow the strict traditionalist interpretation of what the Qur’an says, then physical modesty is required. If we follow the advice that no person can know which Suras are literal, and which are parables, then our understanding becomes more tenuous.

    From my view, Allah, SWT, is loving and merciful. Muhammad, SAWS, said that even unbelievers would have no fear of the Judgement day if they knew of His generousity. Muhammad also said that everything boils down to intention. If you do your best, and keep your inner drive as being modest, no matter what you are wearing, Allah will not judge your clothing at all.

    My suggestions are to read Rumi for inspiration and strength in being yourself. Listen in the silence of your heart and soul to the inspiration and inner voice. And remember that your relationship with Allah is between you and the Divine, and no one else. Anyone who judges you places themselves in Allah’s eye for judgment.

    So, do what works for you, hold your head high, and love yourself and the Divine.

    • “My suggestions are to read Rumi for inspiration and strength in being yourself.”
      Rumi paraphrased the Qur’an in poetic Persian. What do you find wanting in the original? What is your point?

      • Nothing is lacking in the Quran, that’s given. That does not preclude us from searching for understanding, sick we are told that the Quran has parts that are literal, and parts that are metaphorical, and that no man knows which is which. Rumi has a creative and open method of exploring Al Haqq. I wonder at your concern.

  • You are so badass- from your unapologetic writing to your flawless black lip. I think it’s really frustrating at times trying to reconcile between being a good Muslim and just being yourself. And what’s more frustrating is not being able to say anything about it because you don’t want to feed into the narrative that Islam is irreconcilable with other aspects of identity. Loved reading this. You go glen cocco.

  • Thank you for writing so honestly and bringing encouragement and positivity to the internet. I appreciate that there is an element of self sacrifice in posting pieces like these because they attract people who use anger as a way of coping with unhappiness. This piece meant a lot to me, thank you for making that sacrifice so I could read it and you look amazing in that grey jumpsuit <3

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