Melanie's Musing – No One Can Ban Us, No One Can Hold Us Back
Melanie's Corner
Sep 25, 2020
Melanie Elturk
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Martial Arts athlete Sophia Jan shows her moves.
I have to admit, it’s been a *long* time since I’ve taken the time to sit down and write one of these. So much has happened over the past year, it’s hard to know where to even start. I feel like we’ve all experienced whiplash as we look around and wonder what happened to the world over the past seven months. Despite all the turmoil, uncertainty and transformation, we at Haute Hijab were silently working on our top-secret “athletics collection” (as we called it internally), grinding day in and day out until launch day this past week. It’s been a long time coming and something you all have been asking for since the early days of HH. Despite the constant requests, I knew we wouldn’t be able to do a sport hijab justice until we had the right team in place.
It was in early 2019 when Gizelle and I started interviewing potential designers to take the lead on designing the collection. We were looking for someone with the experience, passion and the commitment to sustainability necessary to create the perfect product. We found all this and more in our former Director of Design & Innovation, Mireia Lopez. She took the lead and designed the incredible collection you see today. In that time, the brand team got to work crafting the campaign, messaging, visuals and all the other nitty gritty details you see today. If you follow me on Instagram stories, you most likely saw all the mood boarding, photo shoots, video shoots, fun with athletes and so much more that went into this launch.
Melanie adjusting Noor Alexandria Abukaram's FitFlex hijab during the video shoot.
There was one notable moment in the conception of Haute Hijab Sport I’ll never forget. Back in February, Frankie, our video producer, was presenting his athletics campaign video pitch, and I was *so* moved by his thoughtful ideation and story of the campaign video that I actually cried in that meeting when I saw what this could look like and the opportunity we had to change the narrative – not only of Muslim women in sport but the perception of Muslim women as a whole. If you haven’t seen the video, definitely go watch it now. That prayer break in the video – all Frankie’s idea. That’s right, it wasn’t a Muslim on the team who came up with that. When I asked Frankie about it later, he told me that he observed a marked change in our behavior and demeanor when we came back from prayer – that there was a sense of calm and a groundedness that stood out to him.
Ultimately, that’s what this work is all about. Whether it’s someone on our team, those who watch the video – anyone whose perceptions are changed in a positive way about who we are as Muslims – that is a win in my book. It’s the opportunity for Muslim women to see themselves in a way they haven’t before. Not a diversity checkbox in an ad where we’re now somehow “liberated” and “empowered” because they’re finally acknowledging us, but celebrating the fact that we’ve always been empowered. And, telling it like it is through our unique stories.
The other piece that was so important to me was amplifying the voices of athletes who have overcome real odds to be where they are today. Most notably, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, our Haute Hijab Sport Ambassador. We all felt her incredible story isn’t amplified enough. It’s not talked about enough. We as a community have not held her up high enough. We wanted our campaign to be the Colin Kaepernick moment Nike gave him. The fact that Bilqis fought and won the ban against hijab by FIBA paving the way for hijab-wearing women to play professional basketball anywhere in the world is unbelievable. The fact that she did all that while sacrificing her basketball career is gut-wrenchingly remarkable. It was the crux upon which the “Can’t Ban Us” campaign was born.
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir
We wanted to share her story (and others) while reminding our community of women that no one can hold us back. No rule, no governing body, no ban, is going to stop us. I’ve never seen a collective of women more vocal, more outspoken, more principled and with as much tenacity and heart as Muslim women. That’s what the Haute Hijab Sport campaign is all about, and I pray that as it continues to roll out in the coming weeks, you feel motivated to join the movement, learn more about these incredible athletes, share their stories and take pride in our sisters paving the way forward for future generations. We are, after all, the most powerful women in the world ;)
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