The many ways of being Muslim during Ramadan

By Tahmina Begum

May 20, 2019

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I’m taking a fast from Instagram right now. I’m also taking a fast from food, water, bad habits, and only emulating good energy during sunlight hours—you guessed it, it’s the holy month of Ramadan.

For 30 days, 1.6 billion Muslims around the world take part in trying to unlearn any Earthly bad habits and essentially look beyond themselves. It’s way more than not eating food and trying to curb your ‘hangry’. It’s an act of being consciously grateful, giving as much as you can, especially to those who are not as fortunate as you.

It’s also the time when many Muslims rekindle with their faith. They may pick up the Quran again, they may start praying traditional salaat and even go to the mosque for nightly Taraweeh prayer. Every once in a while, when my thumb slips on the App Store and I download Instagram again, my timeline, the rest of my social media, and even within the discussions I’m having across various circles—we’re are all talking about Ramadan—the array of personal feelings people have around faith bubble up to the surface once again.

With the rise of Islamaphobia in response to terrorism,  a recent example being the racist and xenophobic Christ Church attacks in New Zealand, I’ve seen a noticeable amount of Muslims across generations from millennials to gen X, Y and Z take a stand—and be proud—to do Ramadan this year. I’ve also read the other side of the story.

Though a common sentence I hear from other Muslims, practising or not, is that the air feels different in Ramadan (which I completely agree with), those are not the only narratives we as Muslims should be considering. Journalist and debut author of The Greater Freedom: Life As a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the Stereotypes Alya Mooro, shared an Instagram story on the first day of Ramadan, celebrating the holiday with the words “Ramadan Kareem everyone!”. But it was her second story that hit home. “To everyone celebrating Ramadan (or not), #freedomfrom and #freedomof”.

The term ‘cultural Muslim’ is a phrase that is more common in my vernacular than it was in my parent’s generation. The label varies from person to person but it describes those who aren’t religious yet still respect the teachings Islam has to offer to those who have left the religion (and may or may not have come out to their parents about it). Ramadan is a time to reflect; it can also be difficult for those who are grappling with their different personal beliefs. For many who are ex-Muslims or aren’t simply as religious anymore, 30 holy days can bring a whole month of ‘Muslim guilt’.

For people like Fabliha Anbar, a queer Muslim womxn of colour, navigating communities that you are a part of, and that have also shunned you, makes Ramadan complicated. In a recent Instagram post, Anbar spoke openly about what it’s like for your personal connection to Allah to be policed and how this can then complicate what should be a celebratory month of practice and prayer.

These stories may seem like outliers, and some people may argue that Ramadan is about God and those who don’t have as much as us, but grappling with faith is something we all go through regardless of the outcome.

In conversations such as these—ones that can easily be disregarded as being ‘sinful’, narcissistic and even unholy—we need to unlearn and remember that fasting is also a cleanse from what you think you know while taking a step back to evaluate what’s missing, and what you need to pour into yourself and others. If this is a month about looking beyond yourself, that also means recognising other people’s pain through your own biased lens and frankly, humbling yourself.

For people to be ostracised and then generalised into the ‘bad’ category only because their connection to God doesn’t seem strong is an issue for our Muslim communities. To judge and act as though our way is the only way, especially towards young women in a time where patience, forgiveness, mercy but mainly, empathy is the foundation of this month is truly what is contradictory. Ramadan is a reminder of coming home to yourself, it shouldn’t be four weeks of having to explain your existence. Just like there isn’t one way to look Muslim, there isn’t one way to believe in Allah or anything you may feel is divine, regardless if you’re a part of this month or not.

The many ways of being Muslim during Ramadan


By Tahmina Begum

May 20, 2019

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London Fashion Week à la Brexit uncertainty

By Tahmina Begum

Sep 18, 2018

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Before the vote on the EU referendum became final, the fashion industry in London was buzzing. As the fashion industry was worth £66 billion and directly contributed £28 billion to the U.K. economy in 2017, this influential hub of design, press and retail is built on an international process. From the factories to the shops to the magazines that write about the latest emerging designer and what’s in season, fashion is not local. Therefore, it’s no wonder that 90 percent of those who worked in fashion voted remain. There’s even a popular T-shirt being sold stating “Fashion Hates Brexit” that you can expect your favourite politically charged influencer to be wearing at London Fashion Week.

But it’s now been over a year since the U.K. decided to leave the European Union and in fashion terms, it’s been two complete seasons and not long until we all get our blue passports. With spring/summer 2019 currently underway this September, there are high tensions in the air this fashion month. As fashion is so global, there are concerns on how Brexit will affect the industry but also London as a fashion capital.

Universities such as Central St. Martins and London College of Fashion are homes to generations of iconic fashion alumni; umbrella university UAL is also made up of 19,000 students from over 130 countries. Cultures that not only enrich London and by consequence, the rest of the U.K., as these students end up in the pages of British Vogue and go on to impact how fashion is shaped and what the rest of the world will end up wearing. Therefore, Stephanie Phair, chair of the British Fashion Council believes that thinking about the pipeline of home-grown talent is a post-Brexit priority. “It’s extremely important that we remain open and accessible to international talent.” The question remains, without these transatlantic relationships, what would fashion be?

It seems apparent through this London Fashion Week that the industry has already started preparations before the U.K. officially leaves the EU next year. With designers having to think about exchange rates, how much stock to order and shipping dates, as importing clothes will become more inflexible, hiring staff is also high on the list of problems.

“Brexit has affected me in terms of having my usual freelancers around less because they are trying to create a sturdier client relationships in other parts of Europe in case it becomes harder to work here,” says Weruzochi Chinasa, founder and designer of luxury and sustainable womenswear brand Weruzo. The fashion label is based both in London and Nigeria, however producing one artefact of clothing takes the effort of many hands, with the final product finishing in the U.K. Yet with Brexit, Chinasa further explains, “holding down a pattern cutter [for example] becomes more difficult”.

Similarly, co-founder of Birdsong London, Sophie Avalon, spoke to Screen Shot about how Brexit has already affected the sustainable clothing and accessories brand. “We stopped buying from abroad because the pound got weak overnight. There were lots of American brands we used to buy from but with shipping being so expensive now, all our cut and sewn garments and knitwear are made here. The T-shirts are still bought by an ethical retailer in Bangladesh and our fabric handwoven in India”. Ironically but on the plus side, Avalon states her clientele have widened in Europe yet there is this sense of what will happen once the U.K., i.e. British fashion, leaves the EU?

As the future of the U.K.’s relationship with the EU remains murky, one thing that is clear is how those who work in fashion are already trying to think ahead by working around what could go wrong in order to continue being able to create and put out collections of work consistently. Oh and also keep their fashion jobs. That would be nice too.

London Fashion Week à la Brexit uncertainty


By Tahmina Begum

Sep 18, 2018

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