Archive for February 2016

No, Starbucks, Creating A "Gender Wall" Won't Fix Your Sexist Policies


On February 1, Manar N exposed the sexist rules of a Starbucks coffee shop in Riyadh.

The tweet went viral and sparked an important conversation about cultural relativism and respecting women's rights, prompting the coffee shop to erect a gender wall allowing the women to enter inside.

Nice move, Starbucks, but as a woman who grew up with "gender walls", I am unimpressed.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the laws and customs of Saudi Arabia, all stores are required to segregate men and women's spaces. Men have the privilege to enter both the "Single Section", or the "Family Section" when accompanied by women and/or children. At most restaurants and coffee shops, there is no space for women only.

A sign displayed outside a Starbucks in Riyadh bars women from entering the coffee shop.

Having a "gender wall" means women get the smallest, darkest, and the most crowded area to sit in. The "Family Section" of most restaurants is incredibly small. If a woman even accidentally enters the "Single Section", she is escorted out immediately.

How can a company like Starbucks, which was named one of the world's most ethical businesses for the ninth year in a row, continue to operate in a nation with such repressive laws? By continuing to do business in Saudi Arabia, Starbucks is financially benefiting from the oppression of women.

As result of the backlash against the sexist policies of the coffee shop, Starbucks responded by erecting a "gender wall" segregating single men from women and families.

As a Muslim feminist, I believe businesses have a moral obligation to not open franchises in countries with gender apartheid. Until then, I will stand by my opinion that as a corporation that profits from oppression, Starbucks does not deserve the title of the world's "most ethical" business.

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"Can Non-Muslims Wear the Hijab?" & Other FAQs on Cultural Appropriation

Yesterday was World Hijab Day.

While the organization has received criticism in recent years for promoting cultural appropriation and slut-shaming, it has played an undeniably vital role in bringing to light the struggle of millions of hijabis around the world. It has also sparked an important debate on cultural appropriation and dressing in solidarity with Muslim women. This post will answer some of the most frequently asked questions pertaining to the subject.

   1) Is it okay for a non-Muslim woman to cover her hair?

Although the headscarf has become synonymous with the Muslim faith, it is not a practice exclusive to Islam. Both men and women from other faiths also cover their hair for religious purposes. Non-Muslim women who cover their hair should refrain from referring to their headscarf as a hijab, however, as that word is used exclusively by Muslims. 
While women of other faiths can cover their hair, they should not refer to their headscarf as a "hijab".

   2) Can I wear the hijab to conduct a social experiment?

No. This is extremely offensive as it implies that my experiences as a hijabi are not enough to convince people that the discrimination I face is real. Why is it necessary for a non-Muslim to "prove" Islamophobia is real? There are hundreds of Muslims who have gotten killed, stalked, and harassed by Islamophobes. Their stories have been shared widely around the world. Plus, there is ample statistical evidence to prove Islamophobia is a serious concern for Muslims in Western nations. Why don't you believe us when we tell you our stories?

   3) Can a non-Muslim wear a hijab in solidarity with hijabis?

There are other ways to show solidarity with us. Supporting our businesses, fighting for us when we are being harassed in public, offering to take public transit with us to protect us from Islamophobic attack, and giving us more representation in your artwork are just some of the many things you can do to help us. Unfortunately, non-Muslims wearing a hijab does not help us out much.

   4) Can a non-Muslim buy modest clothing from Islamic stores?

Absolutely, as long as it's not traditional clothing like kaftans or shalwar kameez. Dresses, skirts, and hijabs are fair game.

   5) Can I wear a headscarf because it's beautiful?

Since religious women are ostracized for covering their hair, it is inappropriate to wear a headscarf because you think it's "cute". 

Sorry, gothmummi.

   6) Can I follow hijabi beauty bloggers and share pictures of hijabis on my page?

Of course. As long as you're not fetishizing us.

    7) Can I cover my hair to protect myself from the weather?

I am not going to encourage you to freeze to death or suffocate in a sandstorm because you were trying to be culturally sensitive.

    8) What if a hijabi insists I wear one for a special event?

This is considered cultural exchange, not appropriation, and is completely alright.

Got any more questions that need to be answered? Don't hesitate to contact me!

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