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Reflections from the IMFW Scandal: Let's Do Better

Posted on Mar 21, 2014
Melanie Elturk



By now, I’m sure you all have heard something about the infamous International Muslimah Fashion Week debacle. I won’t re-hash the entire event and invite you to read the post by Keziah from Philly Hijabis Killing It as she was at the event and you’ll have a better understanding of what really went down. Nafiza from The Sultaness also has a comprehensive play-by-play of the events that transpired.  (Miss Hijabi wrote a great piece on this relating to the drawbacks of freely given trust.)

Setting aside the discussion of a well orchestrated scam and other details, what truly troubles me about this entire thing is the utter unprofessionalism that we as a community have come to accept and in some cases, expect. Would we have thought twice about the legitimacy of this event if this was a non-Muslim event? Absolutely. Surely we would’ve seen the red flags; the unprofessionalism, the clear lack of communication, the shoddy website, the questionable video, the outrageous prices and desperate attempts to make money at any cost, “Come to the ball and high tea!” “Pay to attend the livestream event!” The problem is that we’ve become so accustomed to this type of unprofessionalism in our community that we're otherwise un-phased. That’s what’s so troubling. We continue to allow this level of unprofessionalism to be the status quo amongst our communities whether it’s our businesses, our masajid or our Islamic schools. Of course, there are exceptions, but I think we can agree that there is an overall acceptance of lower standards in our community.

I can’t tell you how many people have asked for favors or discounts with Haute Hijab that they wouldn’t ask another retail business – but simply because we’re a Muslim owned company they think they can get away with it – despite all attempts at presenting and establishing a very professional company from start to finish. When I worked as a judicial intern at a Federal District Court I can’t tell you how many Arabs came through (this was Detroit, so you can imagine the Arabs that were brought in for tax evasion, mortage fraud, etc.) that saw my hijab and asked if, "there was something I could do." No there’s nothing I can do. How about you pay your taxes like a normal person and you wouldn’t be in this situation.

A big part of this has to do with the immigrant mentality, and a lot of it is because we're still in our infancy as established communities in the West, but what’s clear is that this is not the adab of the Prophet (S). The Prophet (SAW) asked, “Shall I not tell who a Muslim is?” He then continued, “(A Muslim is) one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are safe; a believer is one whom people trust with their wealth and lives..."  That's what makes all this so heartbreaking, is that WE as Muslims should be leading the pack in terms of professionalism, trust, honoring promises and contracts, ethics in business, etc. Instead, we're known as the ones that people should be careful with or look out for. Not to mention the fact that this whole scandal reflects poorly on others in the industry - on other well-intentioned, professional events like Fashion Fighting Famine or Muslim fashion companies like ours.

Another real lesson to be learned from this entire event is to question ourselves and our intentions. What were our reasons for wanting to attend the event? Was it for notoriety? To be seen with certain people? Did we want to be up close and personal to people we follow on social media and have become obsessed with? Fashion is great, but there should be a purpose behind it as Muslim women. The clothes we wear are very important and a symbol of our devotion to God. Don't take that for granted. As a woman in this industry - whatever you want to call it, I have to question myself and check my intentions on a daily basis. Seeing this entire event fall apart made me really think about this huge explosion of hijab-celebs. Don't get me wrong - a lot of it is amazing - it's about empowerment, encouragement and inspiration. But let's be real - a lot of it is about pride and ego and feeding into a self-obsessed culture. Let's take this entire debacle as a reason to look deep into our hearts and question our intentions, myself first and foremost.

My heart truly breaks for all the women who spent so much money and traveled miles from overseas and otherwise to attend this event only to be disappointed. My heart especially goes out to my fellow designers who paid a lot of money to have a booth at the event, for airfare and accommodations and for those who sent their designs ahead of time only for them to be turned up missing. May Allah (S) ease your hardship and reward you. I hope we've all learned something from this entire thing - there are many, many lessons to be learned and this is just a couple of them. Let's check our intentions and do a better job of expecting professionalism from one another and practicing it in any circles we may find ourselves in.