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Author Topic: "Somewhere In America" [VIDEO] Created by Abbas Rattani and Habib Yazdi  (Read 943 times)
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« on: Dec 01, 2013 02:59 AM »


Hijabis skateboard, fence, and ride motorcycles to Jay Z's "Somewhere in America." Brought to you by the Mipsterz - Muslim Hipsters. (since it's Jay-Z, there is swearing in the lyrics, but very cool video) - notable laydehs featured are aspiring journalist Noor Tagouri and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Somewhere In America on Vimeo

The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another:  [9:71]
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« Reply #1 on: Dec 01, 2013 01:13 PM »

Wow that is something else!! I like that it shows how diverse muslim women are. They wear different styles diff clothes, etc. They coulda showed some more conservative sisters maybe.
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« Reply #2 on: Dec 01, 2013 06:05 PM »


One sister's response:

http://fatimahwaseem.tumblr.com/post/68611006269/this-is-not-my-hijab

fatimah waseem

This is not my hijab.

I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, whether it is a woman who struts the streets with no clothes or a woman who walks in black from head to toe. But I am here to judge a trend that is pairing “swag,” “hijab,” and empowerment in a tightly wrapped bundle that conceals what hijab truly encompasses. The women in this video are strong and demand respect. The trends this video echoes are not.

And this video does not symbolize the hijab it should. This is not passing a judgment on any individual. We can’t shy away from talking about these issues for fear of coming across as judgmental, harsh, or Islamically incorrect. This isn’t about individuals who wear questionable hijab. This isn’t even about how to wear hijab. This is about the values this representation of hijab espouses, creates, and nurtures.

Is this what hijab is? A plumped, fluffed, and frivolous mash-up of modern tends laced in showing one’s figure? Is this “swag” the way to show the the empowerment of Muslim women? Is this the kind of image you would want your little sister or your daughter to chase after? Is this version of hijab, modesty, and character the only way to tell the world that we are empowered, confident, and alive?

The women in this video have not contracted themselves to be representatives of what hijab is and should be. They simply are what they are. This is by no means their job or anyone’s for that matter. But by stepping on this public pedestal, they broadcast a view of what hijabi is, not what hijab is necessarily. It may be intentional, it may be not, but the point is, this fluffed up version of hijab is out there. It is in our minds. It teaches us and informs us.

When Muslimahs place themselves in the public spotlight, it’s inevitable for this kind of criticism to be seen as an attack on their religion, character, or way of life. But it shouldn’t be that way. I’m criticizing something bigger, something deeper than how the folds of your hijab fall and how tight your skinny jeans are.

Some say that this hijab revolution makes hijab more desirable, pushing young girls to take it on with a different mentality. It’s exactly this kind of popularity that is the problem. As is with any mass media representation of beauty, fashion, or culture, there is danger in idealization. There is danger in creating personality out of what begins as a simple cloth. There is danger in pairing this kind of swag with empowerment.

We’re following the same path we’ve been criticizing popular media about - creating a veil of oppression out of covered Muslim women. This time, however, the veil conceals ourselves, our creed, and who we ought to be.

Ten years from now, I don’t want by hijab tied up in a knot. I don’t want to look at my Muslim media and say that we furthered a media representation that is as flawed and one dimensional as the critics we have been challenging since day one.

When I show my future daughter a video like this, I will tell her not to pass judgment. I will tell her these women are Muslimahs. And then I will teach her hijab.
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« Reply #3 on: Dec 02, 2013 03:41 PM »

I can understand the issues people might have with this video, and about the "popularization" and "swagging" of Hijab. But for me this seems to be a manifestation of realities. Once you reach a critical mass over a huge given population you will see a spectrum and not just a slice. I think I only came to realize this after moving to London, because you can see it here easier.
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« Reply #4 on: Dec 02, 2013 06:54 PM »


The only thing that bothers me about the video is skateboarding with stiletto heals.    Shocked

Seriously.  That can't end well...   Roll Eyes
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« Reply #5 on: Dec 02, 2013 11:45 PM »

Another response by someone I've been following and you guys might have seen on Al Jazeera's The Stream in recent times - Sana Saeed - she was critized for saying that the video was only "cool" and otherwise didn't serve any other purpose - here is her response to that critizism.

(same girl we had that argument about whether she was hijabi/practicing Muslim or not with that one brother lol).

Somewhere in America, Muslim Women Are “Cool”



It’s a bit sad that I’m ambivalent about writing this column. After voicing my critiques on the subject on Twitter, I was attacked as being ’a hater,’ ’catty,’ ‘jealous,’, ‘emotional’, ‘judgmental’ and, my favourite one, a ‘feminazi with a political agenda.’

As if there’s any other kind of feminazi.

Why the attacks? Because I, like many Muslim men and, more importantly, women, feel really uneasy about a video released yesterday by the group (movement? cultural tour de force?) Mipsterz – Muslim Hipsters. The video, set to Jay Z’s Somewhere in America,  features well produced shots of stylin’ hijab clad women strutting their cool in and around random urban areas. Aesthetically, it’s really hip, smooth, fierce and, for all intents and purposes, cool.

But that’s about it.

The video doesn’t really seem to have any purpose aside from showing well-dressed, put together Muslim women in poses perfect for a magazine spread. If anything, by stretching, its apparent purpose is to highlight the diversity of Muslim American women, as several comments under the video noted, as ’normal’ and ‘fun’. One of the women in the video even mentioned that it was created to fight against ‘stereotypes’ by expanding the types of Muslim women we are shown and fuse the American with the idea of ‘The Other’. The purpose, she and some other argued, was to show the ‘Muslim rejects’.

If this video is supposed to be ironic, this 90′s kid from the generation that invented contemporary popular irony (you’re welcome) totally doesn’t get it.

The video, produced/created/directed primarily by Muslim men (oh hey voyeuristic-cinematography-through-the-Male-Gaze heyyy), doesn’t achieve anything to really fight against stereotypes: it is literally young Muslim women with awesome fashion sense against the awkward backdrop of Jay Z singing about Miley Cyrus twerking. The only semblance of purpose seems to come in with the images of Ibtihaj Muhammad who is shown in her element, doing what she does as a professional athlete. Those images are powerful and beautiful in what they are saying. Other than that, however, all we as the audience are afforded are images that, simply put, objectify the Muslim female form by denigrating it completely to the physical. Muhammad’s form as a unique Muslim woman is complemented by her matter – the stuff that makes her her; makes her Ibtihaj. As the credits below the video mention, the rest of the women (Muhammad is included in this) are merely “models” even though every single one of them has a central and important function and contribution to her respective community and in her field. Instead of showing what makes each and every one of those women Herself, they’re made into this superfluous conformity of an image we, as the audience, consume and ogle at because hey, they’re part of the aesthetic of the video. Ibtihaj is shown as a professional badass and the rest are shown as professional hot women who skate in heels and take selfies on the roof. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, in and of itself, but what a strange dissonance and incongruence in imagery?

And if that isn’t textbook objectification then I think I’ve been raging against the wrong machine since I was 14.

In the name of fighting stereotypes it seems we’re keen to adopt  – especially for Muslim women who wear headscarves – tools and images that objectify us (either as sexualized or desexualized; as depoliticized or politicized) rather than support us where we need that support. We’re so incredibly obsessed with appearing “normal” or “American” or “Western” by way of what we do and what we wear that we undercut the actual abnormality of our comunities and push essentialist definitions of “normal”, “American” and “Western.” In that process of searching for the space of normalcy, we create ‘normal’ and through that a ‘good’ Muslim. And in all of this, we might just lose that which makes us unique: our substance.

The Elephant in the Room

The process of creating ‘normal’ is also stripping us, especially women, away from central parts of our faith. The Mipsterz video is hard to stomach for so many because it throws the increasing Islamofashionista culture into your face. Catwalk ready, catwalk strut and catwalk ‘tude seem so antithetical to what we know and expect, sometimes zealously, as Islamic modesty. This isn’t about policing what we wear and how or about casting judgment, but about the sort of culture we’re creating for Muslim women’s dress that is no diferrent than the images and lifestyles sans hijab we criticize. The superficial culture we critique and claim is why we wear hijab is becoming our hijab. It is an elephant in the room that is hard to ignore or swallow easily (well, it is an elephant) without offering a strong opinion and observation, wanted or not.

Sahar Ghumkhor opined on Twitter that what struck her the most about the video was that there was ”something depoliticising about this video in how it reproduces a politics of sameness.” Kaouther Ferjani tweeted ‘promoting ‘palatable’ and cool hijab to show we’re not that different screams insecurity & not progress.’ Azizah Magazine’s Sana Rahim expressed her confusion by asking ‘Isn’t focusing so much on the exterior exactly what caused the trouble we face with the representation of Muslim women?’ When the purpose of the video was argued, another tweep – unimpressed – pointed out: “In the description they title the names of  these women “models”. Fashion emphasis is not that subtle, really.” Journalist Ghazala Irshad, wrote elsewhere:

Why spend all this time and money traveling to different locations around the US filming these intelligent women only to not hear anything from them and hear a man rapping about a girl shaking her ass in the background? Why don’t we send a message about why we are different?

Again, this isn’t about the individual women in the video – the last thing they need is more body policing and if you’re spending your efforts on social media harping on them then you’re part of the ultimate problem. As far as I’m concerned, more power to them. What this is about, however, is the concept of this video that is built on particular mores that we’re beginning to accept as ‘normal’ and as useful for ‘breaking stereotypes.’ Is this video really going to break any stereotypes? Honestly? Not really. Despite being made for a non-Muslim audience, its primary audience has already been Muslim and chances are it won’t make much of a fuss elsewhere unless our Overlords Buzzfeed and/or Gawker decide it should. It will, however, help create new stereotypes about cool Muslims versus not so cool Muslims. It will, most importantly and poignantly, perpetuate existing stereotypes about Muslim women’s dress’ proxmity to their Americaness and coolness. Especially towards young and thus impressionable Muslim girls. And these stereotypes exist more so in our communities than outside. The concept behind this video misses the point that stereotypes, within and outside our community, aren’t fought with just well-produced videos that focus on consumptive and repetitive mainstream images (even if with a hijab twist), without any substance. Much like what the history of our faith has shown us, the greatest way to fight animosity and resistance is through our character – what it is that makes us us. Maybe in trying to ‘normalize’ ourselves, we’re losing ourselves?

I know it’s not easy. It’s not easy being a woman, a Muslim and especially a (covered) Muslim woman in the ambiguous West. As I’ve argued elsewhere:

A body clad in a headscarf is not a body liberated from social expectations and demands. From both within the Muslim community and from outside of it, women remain encumbered with pedestals for their looks, their personalities and their bodies. This isn’t a problem of religion; it is a problem of cultures and communities – often clashing.

Those of us who wear a headscarf – in whatever form and with whatever clothes and accessories – are constantly carrying a burden of representation and identity, a very public testament of faith and group belonging even if we’re not wearing it for religious reasons (I know, shocking, but this happens). We will always be critiqued for what we wear and what we don’t wear because women, by virtue of their ‘reproductive value’, carry the burden of judgment for their entire communities. What we as Muslim women don’t need in trying to own our spaces in our small and large communities is the use of our image for the purposes of fixing our image. More specifically: we don’t need to use a (“positive”) superficial representation of us to combat other (“negative”) superficial representations. The reason why stereotypes are oppressive and hurtful is that they dilute the diversity and power of our individual experiences by employing caricatures and images that do not allow, to any extent, for depth. The formula for creating stereotypes, mainstream tropes of assimilation and ’good’ vs ‘bad’ should not be our formula for fighting against those very things. So, we need more than our image. We need us.

In this day and age, we are the image that we create and put out – so what are we individually and collectively putting out? Whatever our intentions maybe we need to recognize that art and representation are – at minimum- two-way streets where the eye of the beholder will ultimately frame the purpose more than the artist/creator him or herself ever can.

I leave you with these powerful words from Dr. Suad Abdul Khabeer:

Somewhere in America? Somewhere in America there is Muslim sister whose scarf is slipping slightly as she nods off on her train ride coming off the late shift. Somewhere in America a niqabi is frustrated in a Muslim clothing store because the “L” sizing on the jlbabs they sell is false marketing. Somewhere in America a Muslim mother tries to sooth a screaming baby while she debates whether the scarf on her head is large enough for an impromptu breastfeeding session. Somewhere in America a Muslim woman giggles with glee after finding the perfect shade of plum. Somewhere in America a Muslim woman is grateful that her headscarf style will cover the choke marks on her neck.  Everywhere in America, a Muslim woman’s headscarf is not only some sex, swag and consumption, it also belief and beauty, defiance and struggle, secrets and shame.


http://www.theislamicmonthly.com/somewhere-in-america-muslim-women-are-cool/

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« Reply #6 on: Dec 02, 2013 11:59 PM »

I like both the critical arguments posted, and I especially love the statement at the end of Sana Saeed's, from Dr. Suad.

I don't agree that this shows Muslim women accurately. It is very much only showing the 'islamofashionistas' as Sana put it - and I think that we have to ask, what exactly is this video trying to portray? A modeling session of women who happen to be wearing headscarves? What is the video achieving through showing heels and struts through iconic scenery?

If the idea was to show 'Muslim women in America', then why not a much wider spectrum rather than a slice? Why not niqabi women reading classic books and graduating with honors, why not the stories that Dr. Suad points out haven't been told?

If the argument is that this showcases diversity of Muslim ladies, I disagree - I don't personally feel that this video achieves much for me as a young hijabi in America. If anything I think that it makes life a bit more difficult - I'll probably get links to this video asking why I don't wear skinny jeans and knots on my head and loosen up a little and go to parties and listen to bad-lyrics music, because the women here seem to be doing that.
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« Reply #7 on: Dec 03, 2013 12:06 AM »

Yeah, I can see that non-Muslims (if they see it) might expect more or most Muslim women, like yourself, to fit this slice of the pie - when I posted it on social media the other day, I just thought it was cool...and honeslty didn't think of what negative effects it might have - yeah, i thought it was a bad song selection for sure. When these or other young women put themselves out there, it is a risk of course, so as long as they are willing to stand up for themselves, and not place their style or think that others should follow suit, it should be ok. But as you say Sis Nature, it can pose a problem when outsiders use this as a judging tool per se, for others that don't see themselves in teh same light or don't feel this represents them as part of the larger community. being a male, not sure how to feel or even if my words matter, since I'm not in your or their shoes. I posted it, as I wanted to get a reaction (success!) and see what you all thought given your unique point of view and experiences.

Thanks for you input/insight.

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« Reply #8 on: Dec 03, 2013 12:16 AM »

Haha, i just left a comment on the piece and then Sana just tweeted this in the last few minutes:



@SanaSaeed: Yes! Muslim women should be the ones talking about their fashion, representations and images. Sorry Muslim dudes, sit this one out. #PTs

She replied to my tweet where  I said I should delete my comment, with this:

@AmericanBrother Don't self censor! I just meant dudes aren't the ones to lead this and should hush hah

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« Reply #9 on: Dec 03, 2013 12:32 AM »

Haha, i just left a comment on the piece and then Sana just tweeted this in the last few minutes:



@SanaSaeed: Yes! Muslim women should be the ones talking about their fashion, representations and images. Sorry Muslim dudes, sit this one out. #PTs

She replied to my tweet where  I said I should delete my comment, with this:

@AmericanBrother Don't self censor! I just meant dudes aren't the ones to lead this and should hush hah

I don't know if I fully agree with that - it should be a topic handled by women, but that doesn't shove out men either. If it was a video objectifying men then I don't think that muslim women would be told to keep silent.
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« Reply #10 on: Dec 03, 2013 06:29 PM »

But i do understand where she is coming from, she said don't censor, but it does seem that a woman's point of view is more appropriate but of course, it's a Muslim issue in the end, so both opinions, views are valid of course.

Here is another response to the responses to the video:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/altmuslim/2013/12/somewhere-on-the-internet-muslim-women-are-being-shamed/ by Rabia Cahudry

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« Reply #11 on: Dec 04, 2013 01:14 AM »

OK, guess people don't want to talk about this, but since I posted it, another response from AltMuslimah (well, a reader):
http://www.altmuslimah.com/b/b/4865/

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« Reply #12 on: Dec 04, 2013 01:34 AM »

Great words by Maryam Amirebrahimi

Regardless of your response to the mipsterz video, at the end of the day:

Where can a Muslim woman who chooses to wear hijab to the best of her ability feel supported, encouraged and empowered (and women who don't wear hijab or sometimes struggle to wear different forms of hijab, at that)? It's definitely not in most Muslim communities. It's definitely not in greater society. For many, it's not even in their own homes. So then, explain, where?

If you have issues with the video, I hope you'll also take issue with our reality:
Women lack voice, agency and support in the greater Muslim community.

You want to get really angry over something? Get angry over the fact that there are women leaving Islam because they cannot deal with the pressures of the community alone. Get frustrated when you hear a woman who came back to the masjid for the first time in decades chooses never to step foot in the masjid because someone yelled at her- in front of everyone- for wearing nail polish while praying. Feel disturbed over the reality of domestic violence and sexual abuse against women in our communities and the deafening silence in which women must endure because of the lack of support from the community. Get outraged when a woman is judged simply by her marital status. And get disgusted when a woman who is wearing loose, covered clothing and modest hijab speaks in front of a mixed audience about an Islamic topic and is told she should never be up there because men are getting aroused simply by her presence. What kind of messages are we constantly sending to Muslim women from our own communities?

Where can she simply celebrate who she is, or cry about who she fears she is becoming or may never be? Regardless of your reaction to the video, let's not lose sight of the reality: Before this video, during this video, and very likely, after this video- we women still do not have access to knowledge the way we should in Muslim communities, we still do not have spaces in OUR OWN communities where we feel welcomed and empowered and we still have few places where we can creatively grow and learn to find self worth, strength and value in our individual uniqueness within the context of the blessed and empowering Islamic framework. Yes, we may not have seen the majority of our beloved sisters in the video portrayed in their specific societally contributive element.

But honestly, if you were to come to the majority of Muslim communities in our society, would you even see her given the space to FIND her element?!

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« Reply #13 on: Dec 04, 2013 01:52 AM »

I think the sisters will like this one more -

DUNYA & The Pursuit of Modesty - TEASER on Vimeo

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« Reply #14 on: Dec 04, 2013 04:11 AM »

I think the sisters will like this one more -

DUNYA & The Pursuit of Modesty - TEASER on Vimeo


Much more diversity in this video, I like that a lot.

I guess that our problem essentially is - how do you balance this? How do you balance realities of the Muslim community alongside Islamic truths? Yes, we want to show our diversity of opinions etc, but how far do you go with that, and with still maintaining Islamic values? I think that it's true that yes, there are loads of Muslim women out there who don't wear hijab, and I believe that hijab should be a choice - but you can't dismiss hijab as having no Islamic connotations. At the end of the day, it is a requirement, just like how maintaining marital rights is a requirement, and how eating halal food and not drinking is a requirement.

I think that honestly probably much of what there is to say has probably been said. However, it's likely that the more 'conservative' or Islamic opinion on this won't be represented, because A)the people who try to speak about this are unfortunately inarticulate "Youtube Commenter" types whose arguments are easily refuted and B)because it will get very quickly shot down by the sheer volume of other responses.

I do like Maryam Amirebrahimi's point, that rather than frothing at the mouth about this video, we should politely and articulately state our argument about it and then move on to actual action in the community. (I don't think the tactic of 'but there are more important things' is a full one, though).
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« Reply #15 on: Dec 04, 2013 04:55 AM »

Thanks for the input sis and it makes sense...to strike that balance when the canvas is painted with so many different brushes... There is another piece that is personal open letter to Abbas Rattani who apparently made an inappropriate comment, in public, to a Muslim girl (at MIST) and he was then prevented from ever coming back, so the creator of this film himself is not well, a woman and of course, the heels on skateboard thing is clearly a male thing, not to mention the song choice...

Here is the open letter - makes the project even more distasteful - wonder if the girls knew about this:

http://collardgreenmuslim.com/2013/12/03/open-letter-to-abbas-rattani-creator-of-somewhere-in-america/

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« Reply #16 on: Dec 26, 2013 01:15 PM »

yea this made a big splash here in Australia too, mostly negative feedback but at the end of the day if it helps to make hijab more mainstream..I'm all for it=)
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« Reply #17 on: Mar 18, 2014 03:42 AM »

Salam!

This is an article from the girl who was involved in filming the video. I actually thought that she took the criticism with very, very good graces considering the sheer volume of 'talk' that roared up about this topic!

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/03/the-surprising-lessons-of-the-muslim-hipsters-backlash/284298/
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