It has been a heavy week. I have cried randomly while driving, exercising, lying down, being with my kids, studying or cooking. The #50lives of Muslim worshippers lost in New Zealand has left a hole in my heart and soul. They are of us, and we are of them. We’ve all been wounded through this horrific tragedy. Last night I found some solace, though, as I followed the #headscarfforharmony campaign on social media, where the women of New Zealand stood in solidarity with their Muslim sisters and donned the hijab for a day on March 22nd.
They wore our flag of faith and felt a sense of what we go through every time we step out of our homes with it. We’re moved to the frontline. We’re visible. We become the standard bearers of our religion. We’re silently screaming: I believe in God! That may make observers and bystanders uncomfortable, but every second that we wear it is counted in our record as worship. I commend each of you that choose to put yourself out there as a woman of God, a woman of solidarity, a woman of courage.
That being said, I would like to honor my dear friend Melanie Elturk, 34, who has tirelessly worked to normalize hijab in the mainstream. As the CEO and founder of the leading US hijab brand Haute Hijab, she has set out to build a world where every hijab-wearing woman feels comfortable and confident. That is not an easy endeavor. At a time where women are scared to wear it, Melanie is providing hijabs that exemplify beauty, luxury, and quality with confidence. She states that in order to make this a reality, the core of her brand has to be spirituality.
“The value of hijab comes from its essence in spirituality,” shares Melanie, who left her practice as a civil rights lawyer to lead her hijab company full-time. “I am very clear that we are a company for Muslims, and hijab is a mandatory part of the faith. Religion is something that has to be on the table, and we make sure each decision is in line with our teachings and values. Every step for our company involves God and seeking His guidance. He has paved this path for us and has been illuminating the way for us thus far.”
Melanie began wearing the hijab in 9th grade. However, she didn’t understand its spiritual dynamic until college. She recalls the exact moment it happened during her undergraduate studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She watched with white knuckles as some male college students made crude and obnoxious comments at women as they passed by them. However, when Melanie walked past, they put their heads down and didn’t say a word. She realized that day that her hijab was a symbol of respect, and she had just earned it as a woman of faith.
“This is what we’re starting to lose with hijab being commercialized and sexualized,” states Melanie. “We’re falling prey to society’s pressures to look a certain way, particularly our youth. Those men understood that they couldn’t cat call at me. They made that distinction, because I was clearly covered. I wasn’t covering for them, though. I was covering for God. We shouldn’t be so desperate to blend in when Allah has given us this honor and recognition through the hijab.”