Influencer Hodan Yousuf Critiques the Hijab’s Recent ‘Trend’ Status

“The same people who might tell me to liberate myself are now saying ‘Wow, it’s high fashion!’ The models don’t face any backlash if they choose to wear the hijab for a photo shoot or on the runway."

In Grade 2, Hodan Yousuf wore a hijab because she wanted to look like her mom. It wasn’t until she was in Grade 11 that she understood why she was wearing it and how it influenced her relationship with God.

“It’s a decision a woman has to make for herself—if she’s going to wear a hijab,” explains the Toronto-born student. “It doesn’t make her less of a Muslim if she doesn’t, and it doesn’t make her more of a Muslim if she does.”

It has always been Yousuf’s choice, which is why she finds it both puzzling and frustrating when people suggest otherwise. “When we wear a hijab, we are told we are oppressed or that we are forced to cover up, but I have not been forced to do anything,” she says. “This whole policing of what a woman should wear is BS.”

The other assumption that bothers Yousuf is when people think hijabis aren’t interested in fashion. “People have this idea that we don’t know anything about fashion—that we walk around in black skirts and we don’t care—but that’s not true,” she says. To counteract that view—and to act as a role model—Yousuf launched her Instagram page to showcase modest fashion.

“I promote the fact that you can be modest and still wear fashionable clothing and uniquely express your style,” she says.

Although she tends to wear vintage items because “back in the day, they dressed more modestly,” Yousuf says it’s “cool” to see more modest fashions on the runway this season. Especially when the designer’s intent is to showcase a modest aesthetic and not because he or she thinks hijab-like headgear is a trendy accessory.

“That’s when it becomes offensive,” explains Yousuf. “The same people who might tell me to liberate myself are now saying ‘Wow, it’s high fashion!’ The models don’t face any backlash if they choose to wear the hijab for a photo shoot or on the runway. Meanwhile, my hijab identifies me as being Muslim. When tragic incidents that are associated with my faith or culture happen in the world, it makes me feel afraid to be out alone. People say derogatory things. Earlier this year, there was ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ in the U.K. I didn’t leave the house that day.”

In spite of those moments, Yousuf says wearing the hijab is a way of life for her that has brought her enlightenment. “Being able to express my faith—and my love of fashion—makes me happy.”

You can find Hodan Yousuf on Instagram and in our September 2018 Identity Matters Issue, on newsstands August 13.