What Playboy’s hijab-wearing model means to women

Over the past two months, the hijab has garnered a lot of attention From being associated with the burkini, to calls to ban women wearing the hijab in their passport photo, to an Olympic athlete being praised for wearing it, to a fight involving shoes and chairs during a live broadcast on TV. There is no denying that the hijab is controversial in multiple communities.

Playboy, the infamous nude-filled magazine, picked up on it. Perhaps this is why it chose to feature Noor Tagouri, an up-and-coming hijab-wearing TV presenter based in the United States in their “Renegade” series.

It is unfortunate that there seems to be strong urgency to voice opinions on women who wear the hijab, and it is shameful that this urgency takes precedence over issues that are in my opinion more important, such as the refugee crisis or youth unemployment. Alas, Playboy picked up on this controversial piece of clothing and wrote an article on it – the online community was not happy.

Were people upset?

Admittedly, perhaps Playboy, a magazine that has based its success of objectifying nude women is not the best play to showcase female empowerment. However in this particular case, the medium does not matter as much as the message.

Playboy has decided to take the plunge and feature a Muslim woman in a positive light, and to some extent, this is something that must be celebrated. The issue in which Tagouri is featured in includes people who have “risked it all – even their lives – to do what they love.”

Let women be – let them be free to dress as they want, act as they want and appear in any magazine they want because ultimately, it does not affect anyone but themselves

Yara al-Wazir

The reality is that although Tagouri fit the “standard” of what Playboy was looking for to include in this particular magazine feature, Playboy editors also knew that she would garner controversy, as did Tagouri. Although sex sells, it doesn’t quite reach as wide of a market pool as controversy.

So if the Muslim community really wanted to protest featuring an unapologetic and brave news personality in Playboy, the best way would have been to in fact remain silent. If anything, this would prove that Tagouri isn’t risking anything within her own community.

I can’t help but feel that there is a double standard. One of Malcolm X’s greatest interviews (as a Black Muslim) was also in Playboy in 1963. Yet over 50 years on, Malcolm X is still praised as a progressive Muslim who shone a bright light on the religion and the community in the Western world. The controversy isn’t simply because a Muslim appeared in Playboy, rather because a Muslim woman appeared in Playboy. The controversy is rooted in a deepened belief that women’s bodies can be policed and bullied.

Policing women bodies

Being a Muslim woman in Europe means that both the “good cop” and the “bad cop” are policing my body and my clothing. As a Muslim woman, I cannot help but feel victimised by those who preach for the hijab, and those who preach against it; the ultimate result is feeling too Eastern for the West, but too Western for the East.

It is about time that the hijab stopped causing so much controversy and became accepted as another article of clothing a woman may choose (or not choose) to wear. To those who are strong believers in the hijab’s stature and importance in Islam and take it upon themselves to preach, I say: let women be. Women are responsible for their own actions and nowhere does the Quran ask strangers to preach to other women what they should wear or what magazines they should appear in.

To Westerners who believe the hijab is a sign of oppression and that every woman who wears it needs “saving,” I say: let women be. The hijab is subjective, and to many of those who wear it, it is actually a symbol of liberation and freedom from the constant scrutiny and objectification infringed on women by society. To many women, the hijab is a symbol of individuality and allows the incorporation of personality into their own style.

The overall message from all the controversy that the hijab seems to cause is to simply let women be – let them be free to dress as they want, act as they want, and appear in any magazine they want because ultimately, it does not affect anyone but themselves.


Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir



Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:52 - GMT 06:52
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.