In December 2018, American YouTuber Adam Saleh posted a video to his channel titled, “Why Dina Tokio Took Her Hijab Off”. Since then, more than 450,000 people have viewed said video and very few are calling him out for such a low blow of an attack on Dina, the infamous British designer, writer, blogger, and entrepreneur. Saleh proceeds to go on a rant where he discusses in great depth, the reasons Dina made what he calls, a mistake. His casual upload is laced with inflammatory dribble such as, “If I was a girl and I had the hijab on, and out of nowhere I took it off, like, my mom would smack the s*** outta me.” The rest of the video follows Saleh asking his friends for their own opinions on her decision to take off the hijab. “We’re not judging,” is swiftly followed by, you guessed it, critiques and judgments of Dina’s character and the quality of her adherence to the faith.
The most intriguing thing about this whole debacle was that Saleh received very little criticism for openly blasting and defaming a woman he does not know. Adam Saleh is but one of a handful of male, muslim, social media influensters who have curated critiques and judgments regarding Dina’s choice to remove her hijab for their audience to revel in.
It’s become a disturbing trend where we see a woman living her life, and her every choice and step is micro-analyzed by the Muslim men in the community who take it upon themselves to publicly shame, harass, and defame said woman’s character. Why? Simply because she has chosen to live her life in a certain manner that they deem does not fit their ideals. Interestingly enough, it is these same men that flaunt their ostentatious lifestyles on their own personal social media with no regard for the same ideals they so aggressively expect of the women online.
When did it become the norm for Muslim women to be harassed online by Muslim men who feel obliged to “correct” their behaviour? How has it become the case that social media stars like Adam Saleh, have garnered worldwide fame, and admiration followed closely by pure fanaticism and cult-like obsession despite the fact that said stars, Saleh to be specific, regularly upload videos that are littered with profanity, vulgarity, foul language, and subtle misogynistic themes? It’s difficult to understand how anyone could sit in front of a camera and degrade a woman for choosing to no longer don the hijab when the next suggested video is a music video where they are standing half naked with a woman or swimming provocatively in a pool with another. (Referencing Saleh’s “All you can handle” music video).
The hypocrisy in the minds of some Muslim men is becoming more and more difficult to decipher. The same man who calls out a woman for “openly sinning” is prancing around his own videos promoting a lifestyle that drastically opposes that of our faith. The hijab, which directly translates to “barrier” in arabic, is the colloquial term for the headscarf worn by many Muslim women. In actuality, the headscarf or covering, is actually known by many other names in the Quran. For example, “khimaar” which is described as a long piece of cloth that covers the head and chest area. The hijab is explicitly mentioned in the Quran where God urges the believing women to “…wrap their head-covers over their chest and not expose their adornments…” (Surah An-Nur, verse 31). The same chapter also tells believing men to, “lower their gaze and guard their private parts.”
As with all aspects of worship that are mentioned in the Quran and Prophetic teachings, we have a choice whether or not and to what degree we follow them. Praying our five daily prayers, giving alms, fasting, going on the pilgrimage, these are all obligatory acts of worship in our faith. Wearing the hijab, as explicit as it is in the Quran, is still, at the end of the day, a choice. That is the way we were created as humans. We have the capacity to make decisions based on our own understanding and we will be held accountable for what we choose to do. The beauty lies in the fact that only God alone, knows the true intentions behind anyone’s actions. Sincerity can be judged by Allah alone. Yet the temptation in this temporary realm lies in constantly belittling and critiquing anyone that does not abide by your own personal path in faith. Faith by its nature, wavers, it goes up and down and no two people will ever be at the same level of faith. Intrinsically, we are all facing our own uniquely curated trials and tribulations. We are all accountable for our own deeds.
Prominent blogger Sajida (niqabisinparis) made a post recently about this issue:
“i really wish muslim women were given the space to explore hijab like every other form of worship. i wish it wasn’t a “terminal” thing where the second you put in on, you’re a hijabi forever and if you take it off, you’re immediately stripped of the title and tumble down the Good Muslimah Totem Pole. i can miss prayers for one day but doesn’t that make it someone who doesn’t pray. if i start reading quran today, but stop a week later, does that completely end my relationship with the quran? why isn’t the same logic applied to hijab? and then yall wonder why so many people put off starting because it feels like a life sentence and a lifelong commitment that you’re absolutely not allowed to ever fall short in any type of way. we’re setting ourselves up for failure. give us breathing room. give us encouragement and understanding. let us explore what hijab is or isn’t for ourselves and don’t make us your scale to measure whether the ummah is headed in the right direction or not. the fate of the muslim world isn’t determined by polyester scarves.”
Hence, when only, and it truly is only, when a woman who happens to be a public figure decides to no longer don the hijab — for whatever reason — she not only does not owe us a reason, she is also not accountable for the derogatory and disrespectful remarks that we usher from our own mouths to defame her. When a man, who happens to be a public figure, decides to create an entire persona and an entire career based on profanity, vulgarity, and a complete debasement of women’s characters, he is lauded as an artist, a creator, an ambitious move maker. The hypocrisy within our Muslim communities is appalling.
What’s more disturbing is the fact that young Muslim children, men, and shockingly, women, are viewing Adam Saleh to be a role model. Let that sink in.
What does that tell us about the direction our community is going? Dina Tokio is a self-made fashion designer, writer, and entrepreneur on top of being a wife and mother. She is being demonized for choosing to no longer wear her headscarf. Adam Saleh, a problematic playboy, is being celebrated as a role model for young Muslims. If the problem isn’t staring you in the face, then perhaps we still have a longer way to go than ever expected.