Alright, ready to get to the next question from my anonymous Islam Q&A? Let's do this!

Q: Can you explain how Muslims justify female mutilation? Is that considered scriptural or cultural? 
A: As Female Genital Mutilation/Modification (FGM) is *not* a part of Islam, most Muslims don't justify it! Hooray! That was easy.

I know I'm not quite off the hook yet, so let's chat:

islam q&a, fgm islam, muslim blogger, muslim fashion blogger, islam blog

For those of you who don't know, FGM is a cultural practice that was practiced prior to the start of Islam in parts of Northern Africa and spots in Western Asia in which some or all of the external female genitals are removed--mostly behind the patriarchal reasoning of limiting or removing sexual pleasure for women. Of course, there are many other reasons why FGM is practiced, including rituals that are not intended to be catered towards men (for example, some people who practice do so because they view the body as-is to be "incomplete" and requiring modification, and the procedure takes place without the desire or even knowledge of men). But, as the practice related to patriarchal recommendations (i.e for limitations of sexual pleasure) is the reasoning most attributed to Islam, I will working through this particular understanding of FGM in answering the question.

FGM is not mentioned at all in the Qur'an (the holy book for Muslims), and is practice by Muslims, Christians, and non-religious people alike. And while religious people who conduct this practice attribute it to religion, there seems to be no indication in either faith that FGM is obligated--or even encouraged.

In Islam specifically, not only does this practice prove counter to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)'s commandment to "accept no harm and do no harm to another," but women in Islam are actually granted the right to divorce their spouse if they are not sexually satisfied. So, if FGM is designated to remove sexual pleasure for women, this seems to clash strongly with women's rights under Islam.   

I think a better question to ask would be: why is FGM attributed to Islam when only a minority of Muslims engage in this practice (as do a minority of Christians and non-religious people), even when it seems to stand in contrary to mainstream interpretations of the faith?
*cough* ask Western media *cough*


Hope that answered your question! Feel free to continue to submit questions/comments/disagreements in either the Anonymous Islam Q&A form or via comments below!

For those of you following along on snapchat (hodakay), you saw that I had my tripod and video recorder all ready to go this morning and are probably confused on why this post suddenly went all-text. Well friends, after several hours of video editing I went with my go-to idea of tossing it all out the window because I decided I didn't like it last minute, and needed some ice cream instead.
Welcome to my life.
Sorry you didn't get to see my sarcastic facial expressions that accompanies some of this text, but there is probably enough of that on my snapchat...

Islam Q&A is a series dedicated to helping challenge mainstream Western misconceptions and spread of Islamaphobia. Through knowledge comes understanding and through understanding comes peace. 
More in this series: Notes from a Muslim Feminist; Why does Islam Treat Women Badly; What does Jihad REALLY mean?

-have friends that need to hear this? Share it!-


P.S. Exciting milestone(s) on Instagram this week! Check out my finished thesis (!!) and a successful campaign at the University of Chicago to divest from companies that profit from the illegal Israeli apartheid regime in Palestine! (p.p.s. want to learn more about the issue? We got you covered.) 


Preface I: Why are we having this conversation? Despite this being a very difficult and sensitive conversation to be having, I think it is *so* necessary to be having it in *this* space. This blog is, by its nature, a part of the fashion industry--aka one of the largest players in producing inappropriate cultural appropriation--therefore, it must be identified and called out. Silence is complacence. Moreover, this topic has been requested by many of you for the longest time (my bad) so it's obviously also a conversation that is lacking and needed in spaces like these. 

Preface II: defining and drawing lines is not something that I can do--both because I am not a spokesperson for any cultural/ethnic/religious group (especially ones that I am not a part of, obviously) and also because I simply don't have all the answers. Or even some of them. I think cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation are *very* difficult concepts to be grappling with, and this should be an ongoing conversation--please feel free to contribute and join in in the comments section, via email, etc--whatever is comfortable--*especially* if you disagree with me. This space is dedicated to conversation and thinking through tough issues. 

Alright. We good? Let's do this~

cultural appropriation, hijabi fashion blog, hijab fashion, cultural appreciation
Photo: Rihanna's Instagram

What is Cultural Appropriation? 
Cultural appropriation is, in its simplest and most basic form, the act of an individual from a particular (usually privileged or dominant) culture adopting cultural/religious elements of a marginalized culture, insensibly. 

This is most clearly articulated when a dominant or oppressive group takes from a culture that it is oppressing (ex: white people in the USA wearing a white-washed play on traditional Native American headdresses as sexy costumes, etc), and more complicated/difficult to identify when one marginalized group takes from another marginalized group (ex: Beyonce appropriating Indian culture in Coldplay's music video).

Both are definitely forms of cultural appropriation, but for different reasons, and in different ways: Many Native/Indigenous tribes of North America wore headdresses if they were men who achieved a particular honor/achievement (according to Apihtawikosisan) so non-native people wearing a headscarf first and foremost is an act of cultural appropriation because it totally ignores the significance of the headdress. Another layer of cultural appropriation is added to this when white Americans wear Native/Indigenous cultural objects--The United States was built on the genocide of Native/Indigenous Americans, forcing them to dress like a European subject (or slave)--so, the act of white Americans--whose ancestors are responsible for the annihilation of Native/Indigenous American people and culture and now enjoy the benefits of the society they created--wearing Native/Indigenous American cultural objects is very much wrong and culturally appropriative.

A major key here (non-intentional reference to DJ Khaled--who, btw, will not be getting anotha' one chance in my snapchat feed because I'm not a fan) is that cultural appropriation plays on historic themes of oppression and domination and does not respect the significance/value of the cultural/religious object.

Cultural appropriation, black culture, what if america loved black, racism
Photo via The Maroon Tiger

Ready for another example? Remember that time Rihanna went to Dubai and posed in front of a Mosque? (first photo picture) Super rad and cool right!!??!!!!
Mmm, how about not.
We're going to file this one in the Cultural Appropriation folder right next to the file on Dolce and Gabbana's lastest "collection for Muslims" that I've ranted about in a few interviews (and will also be discussing further at the Chicago Humanities Festival April 30th! *cough* Chicago fam should #turnup *cough*). Why? Both of these do not constitute appreciation--they clearly don't even know enough about Islam to be able to appreciate it: Rihanna's hyper-sexualization of a garment made for modest + disregard for the religiosity of a particular space and Dolce & Gabaana's throwing around expensive, glamorous fabrics to act as headcovering made to reject excess superficiality sounds a bit appropriative, culturally and religiously, if you ask me. Aka a hijab-wearing Muslim woman (but again, who doesn't speak for all Muslims because we're not a monolithic, homogeneous entity!! fwd: Western media, USA Republican candidates + Hilary Clinton, et. all *insert several passive-aggressive smiling emoticons*).

Not to mention that another way to identify cultural appropriation is when a cultural/religious object suddenly becomes "cool" when someone from another culture adopts it.
Many of the same people who were commenting "omg!!!! so cute!!!!" under Rihanna's photos covering her hair and skin are calling Muslims terrorists and asking Muslim women if they are oppressed. (P.S. we're not).
Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry wearing cornrows is another example: "cute" or "edgy" when white people do it, but looked down upon when Black people introduced it and continue to pull it off beautifully. But don't take my word for it--let's ask Katy Perry.

Hey, Katy, do you culturally appropriate??

this is how we do katy perry, katy perry, cultural appropriation, activism, black culture

Well, there you have it folks.

This is not to say that you shouldn't be wearing *anything* that belongs to a culture that is not yours--people around the world are beautiful and are wearing/practicing wonderful things that everyone can partake in, but it is *so* important to be doing so with acute understanding of the relationship between your culture and the one you are trying not to appropriate, the significance of the cultural/religious object/practice, and constantly challenging yourself and questioning your intentions, purposes, and goals.

And for those skimmers aka millennials aka seriously why is your attention span so low this article is only a little more than 1000 words seriously people where is our world going, here is your TL;DR:

  • The act of a dominant/privileged group adopting cultural elements of another (most likely marginalized/oppressed) culture in an insensible manner
  • Plays on historic themes of oppression, domination, and privilege 
  • Ignores the value, significance, or meaning of the object/practice
  • Does not give credit to the original culture/religion/ethnicity/etc
  • Looked down upon/mocked when practiced/worn by the original marginalized culture but becomes "cool," "trendy," or "edgy" when done by the oppressors/appropriators.

  • Understanding the significance of a particular practice/object/tradition and not undermining or destroying its significance or value. 
  • Understanding histories of oppression and marginalization surrounding the particular object/practice/tradition and gauging the appropriateness of your actions in relation to this history
  • Being invited by an individual of that particular culture to participate in/wear their culture's traditions/clothing for a specific event or occasion (weddings, religious rituals, etc)
    • But word of caution here: getting a "go" pass from one of your friends doesn't mean that other people from their culture won't be offended. Just like you can't use your token Black friend as an excuse to be racist, you can't use the invitation of one Muslim to wear a headscarf for a day as an excuse to expect that the rest of us are all going to be jumping up and down and applaud you for your bravery. (Because I'm not/didn't).
  • Ask yourself: Why am I doing this/what are my goals in doing this/can I achieve my goal without doing this?/why is this necessary/is this even necessary/no it is not necessary/alright awesome then we good.


There are also a few particular questions via comments and email that I've received about appropriation and appreciation, which I will save for pt. 2 of this post (because like you I also have a short attention span but mostly I am craving a cupcake and need to go acquire one asap)!!!

If this successfully managed to confuse you even more, please feel free to shoot me an email or drop a comment (or tweet or snap (@hodakay) or Facebook or dm me on the instas or honestly at the rate this is going you might as well just come over or something and we can chat over Persian tea).

Talk to you in the comments!


~If you enjoyed this post, you can share it with your friends (especially those who might need a helpful hint hint wink wink)~


Remember back in January when I was like "hooray here's to a beautiful 2016!!!11" and then those of you who have been following for awhile know me well enough to roll your eyes and say yeah nothing's going to happen until HER (Persian) new years.
You're good.
And accurate.

P.S. What is Persian New Years?! You ask? We've covered that here and here!

persian new year, eid nowruz, hijabi blogger, hijab fashion blog, iranian blog, persian fashion blogger
Pictured: Me picking flowers/branches in the hopes of looking spring-ready, but instead managing to accidentally pick the flowers aka buds of my dad's fruit trees. Whoops. (Don't try this at home, kids)

While the blog has been sort of in an on-hold state due to thesis writing, the launch of my first book, and a bit of over-committed community organizing work (oh and like classes or whatever), I will still continue to only blame the fact that January-mid-March is the equivalent of a non-Persian's October-December, aka the time in which you're basically just sort of ready to call it a year and just ask your roommate to wake you up from hibernation when the season changes.
So that happened.

But despite the fact that your roommate is the worst at waking you up for things, we're excited to celebrate spring and the new years with you!

And of course, no new years is complete without a little layout update + mini re-branding!

First of all, I never thanked you all properly for your overwhelmingly helpful (and kind!) responses to my annual reader survey! I always learn so much about what direction to take (and no longer take!) JooJoo Azad, and I loved learning so much about you, where you're from, and your likes and dislikes--it only took me a few months to finally take it all in and decide a new strategy for the site (and in doing so accidentally missed that whole "stop posting so infrequently!!!!!!" section of the comments you left me in the survey...oops..I'm getting better, I promise!)
Here are a few new updates and changes:

1. More focused categories + topics: This is an anti-capitalist activist fashion blog written from the perspective of an Iranian-Muslim feminist. Aka we have a lot of content to cover. Aka we're going to have to post more than "once every now and then." Aka SORRY for not posting often. But we back. (for real this time). Starting next week we're coming at you with posts twice a week! So you're going to want to keep this page close by!

2. We're creating a Blogging Resource Guide
Being more focused in the types of content that we post also means we're ending the wildly popular "Blogging Tips" series to make room for more content related to politics, feminism, creative collaborations, etc. While blogging tips posts were racking in the page views,  it seems now it is only working to muddle a site that already tries to do too much. But, I'm still receiving a lot of emails and messages about help with blogs, so we have a compromise: I've added a little button on the right where you can continue to submit questions/things you're struggling with, and at the end of each quarter (2.5 months), I'll create a mini e-book/webinar series to help out as best I can!
So, feel free to head on over to the Blog Resource Guide and take a peek around!

3. We're getting an Intern!
As JooJoo Azad continues to grow, and I seem to continue to only be one person, we (the blog & I) have decided we need a few more hands on deck to help juggle all of our upcoming blog projects!
This definitely does NOT mean that someone else will be answering your emails or comments or writing posts--rather, it will just be giving me more time to respond to engage with you and reply to emails and create content! Hooray!

We're really excited about these major updates + changes and looking forward to continue to build this platform with you into a really beautiful, inspirational, and helpful space to learn and grow together! Thank you for being part of this with me!

And now for real this time, here's to a beautiful year 1395~


P.S. Phew, all of the orders from the pre-sale of Tehran Streetstyle should *finally* have been shipped! Sorry again for the delay there--issues with underestimating volume of orders caused a bit of a holdup waiting for more copies to be printed!

P.P.S Hit up our snapchat at hodakay + instagram at @hodakatebi + bloglovin' here!


*So* excited to finally have everything in place for the official launch party of my book, Tehran Streetstyle, the first-ever in-print collection of modern (mostly underground) fashion photography from the streets of Tehran, Iran! 
Below are all of the details: 

Tehran fashion, Iranian fashion, tehran streetstyle, iran streetstyle, iranian streetstyle, hijab fashion, hijab streetstyle, hijab fashion blog+ Date| Saturday, March 12th 
+ Time | 3-6pm
+ Location | The Silver Room (1506 E. 53rd Street)

If you are on Facebook, you can find the link (and invite your friends!) here
For more information on Tehran Streetstyle, you can read about its goals and motivations or see what the press has to say! 

I'd so love to meet a few of you there! xx

ALSO, I'm speaking on a panel at the Chicago Humanities Festival April 30th about hijab and fashion, for those of you in the area who would love to come and learn more about that!
All of the information about the panel (as well as how to purchase tickets) are on the Chicago Humanities Festival website.

For the non-Chicago friends--we have so many exciting upcoming projects and collaborations in the works, so be sure to stay tuned! Next up, Cultural Appropriation vs. Appreciation.

Iranian New Years is Sunday, March 20th and I can't wait to celebrate it with you!

Snapchat: hodakay



We're sharing their stories here because mainstream media refuses to do so. Anti-blackness and Islamaphobia in the USA is real. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Last week, three Black Muslim youth, Muhannad Tairab (age 17), Adam Mekki (age 20), and Mohamedtaha (age 23) were murdered in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The media is silent. The police refuse to investigate and dismisses any claims to their murder being motivated by the hate that is over-saturated in this country.

Fort Wayne Shooting, anti-blackness, islamaphobia, muhannad tairab, adam mekki, mohamedtaha,

I'm rather inarticulate in times of pain, so I will just share the words of Afaq Mahmoud, the cousin of two of those murdered:

"This week, two of my cousins and a friend were murdered execution style in Fort Wayne Indiana. Since then, I’ve read comments saying they deserved to die because they were muslim, because they were black, because they were probably in a gang, because they were probably on drugs, etc.
They were murdered execution style, with multiple shots fired. They were murdered execution style in this country. We don’t know why. There’s no possible reason why. But even if they weren’t killed because of their faith or skin or nationality, the reaction to their deaths is a direct result of these factors.
Do you know what it takes to run from war? Do you know what it means to flee from one war zone only to land in another? Do you know what it means to flee to “safety" and have it swallow you whole? Do you know what it means to feel unsafe in your own country in your own city in your own skin?
They were good boys. They were Sudanese Americans. They were citizens of this country. They were good boys.
I should not have to state that for you to see them as human. I should not have to state that at all.
Their faces are trending on social media. Do you know how triggering it is to see strangers drag your blood through the mud? They were murdered on Wednesday and again every day since then. They were killed on Wednesday and those who try to tarnish their names are killing us too.
They were good boys and people are saying their skin makes them thugs and their faith makes their deaths worth celebrating.
They were good boys, but what the hell kind of people only mourn deaths if lives were lived according to their standard? What the hell kind of people only mourn people if they look and live and pray like them?
This whole thing has taught me a few things.
Although their funerals were on Saturday, they’ll be buried every day since.
Apparently lives are only worth mourning when they look a certain way. Apparently lives are only worth mourning when they live a certain way. Apparently lives are only worth mourning when they pray a certain direction. Apparently some lives aren’t worth mourning at all.
I won’t sit silently and watch this happen.
If you have somethings to say about these boys, say them to me.
If you have questions, ask me.
Please let them rest.
Please look at how their family mourns them, and tell me again how they’re not human.
They were good boys.
Rest in peace Taha, Muhannad, and Adam.
إِنَّا لِلّهِ وَإِنَّـا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعونَ"
Their murder comes only a little after the one-year anniversary of the death of Muslim-Americans Deah, Yusor, and Razan in Chapel Hill.

Please do "like" the Our Three Brothers Facebook Page and sign the petition demanding that the authorities at Fort Wayne, Indiana conduct a full investigation into their murder and do not ignore the claims of a hate crime. If you'd like to share Afaq's words on your own facebook timeline (which she hopes that you will do to help spread the word!), you can do so here.

Rest in Power, Taha, Muhannad, and Adam. 
You will live on in all of our hearts.