The hijab is often portrayed as a symbol of oppression. But for some Muslim women, the traditional headscarf is an opportunity to make a modern fashion statement.
Take Yasemin Kanar.
The 25-year-old Floridian is part of a group of cosmopolitan young women taking to YouTube and Instagram to showcase what it means to be a modern, fashion-conscious Muslim woman and to combat the stereotype that Islam and fashion don’t go hand-in-hand.
Kanar’s YouTube videos have racked up more than a million hits. But they don’t feature cats or exercise moves. Instead, they show different ways to wear hijabs, the headscarves Muslim women begin to wear when they reach puberty.
The videos, photos and tweets are clearly filling a void. Kanar has a flourishing YouTube presence and an Instagram page with more than 70,000 followers. Ascia Farraj, another young Muslim woman, has nearly a million Instagram followers who track her fashion choices – from wedge sneakers to oversized sunnies and, of course, expertly fashioned headscarves.
“When I first started, there weren’t really any girls doing tutorials on how to cover and how to style your scarf in different ways,” Kanar, who calls herself Yaz the Spaz, told Fusion. “I think it just went viral because of that reason.”
Born to a Turkish father and a Cuban mother, and raised in a conservative Muslim household in Miami, Kanar initially looked to her mother for guidance on how to wear her hijab. But she found the traditional Turkish style, pinned tightly under the chin, uncomfortable.
So she started to experiment with different styles. After a few requests from friends, she began posting video tutorials on YouTube about five years ago. She quickly gained a big following — more than 50,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly 600,000 Facebook followers.
“Girls who start to wear hijab now have more options to choose from,” she said.
While the response to the tutorials has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly from young women, Kanar has received some criticism for “exposing herself online.”
“There’s always going to be somebody from a different country where women are not allowed to do the same things women are allowed to do in America,” she said.
But Kanar isn’t phased by any backlash. She and other young Muslim women are seizing the chance to show that fashion and modesty can coexist – and that means using tools like YouTube and Instagram to encourage girls to be proud of being Muslim while still being fashionable.
“In this generation,” she said, “we’re all becoming more fashionable while still keeping the modesty.”
Although she’s covered, Kanar’s videos and photos showcase her penchant for fuschia lipstick and geometric patterns. If some older generations don’t like it, so be it. She’s too busy finding new ways to wear her hijab to be bothered.