Religious, a brave young woman hailing from Senegal is raising her voice and showcasing Islam in a positive way. Madeleine D’Arabie is a Hijabi, yet she is a bold, beautiful, happy, and feminine. A hijabi is a woman, who wears the hijab. The hijab is a veil that covers the body, which is particularly worn by a Muslim woman. Also, It can further refer to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conforms to a certain standard of modesty. Wearing a hijab does not mean the woman behind it, doesn’t exist anymore or can’t achieve anything, far from that and that’s the important message Madeleine D’Arabie has for every woman. With an important fan-based of 6000 plus fans on Facebook, her main goal is to empower women, be it through fashion, religion, philosophy and mutual tolerance. She invites women to find inspiration throughout her various messages.
As a fashionista, she blends trends, fabrics and shapes like no one. She is heavily inspired by Arabic and Asian cultures. But make no mistake, she retains her strong African heritage in every single outfit.
Please introduce yourself and tell us why you chose Madeleine D’Arabie as a name for your page?
Salam Aleikoum my name is Madeleine Sylla and Madeleine D’Arabie comes from a nickname I chose after travelling to countries influenced by the Arab culture. It reminds me of the movie Lawrence D’Arabie (Lawrence of Arabia) and I like the surprise it creates when you hear a French name next to “D’Arabie”.
What are the key messages Madeleine D’Arabie is trying to convey and to whom?
Creating this platform is a way for me to show another face of today’s muslim woman. Politicians who have their own personal agenda feed our minds with images of Islam that are not representative of the true beauty of the muslim community. With this page I want to show a new muslimah who is smart, fashionable, creative, ambitious, enjoys life and contributes to society in he own way.
Where do you get inspirations for your outfits?
My inspiration comes from two sources, my mother who is very creative and also the beautiful energy that surrounds me throughout my several trips around the world. Masha’Allah there is beauty all around us, if only we take the time to seat back and observe.
Do you any have a favourite look? When you look at the picture, what do you see?
It would be difficult to point out one look in particular but I like conveying joy and my sense of humor in a picture.
Where do you shop? What are your favourite brands?I am not faithful when it comes to brands but I pretty much shop online and most of the shops I know I discovered them from http://www.hijabstyle.co.uk/ they have plenty of shopping links that are hijab friendly and affordable. I also have a lot of my very own designs custom-made by our talented tailors from Dakar.
What is Halal Chic? Can you define this concept for non-Muslims?
Halal Chic in my mind rimes with modest yet fashionable. Most women are afraid of wearing the hijab because they fear they will lose their feminine touch. My goal is to show that Islam does not reject beauty as long as, it is done tastefully and without any intention of showing off or being provocative.
Are you a reader? If yes, any favorite books? And why?
I used to read a lot more when I was younger but I still have passion for literature. One of my favourite books woud be “The precious pearl” by Imam Ghazâli. Despite my bubbly personality I have this curiosity about death, the afterlife and Sufism.
Any particular advice for people who wants to become hijabis.
To those who are afraid to jump, I am asking them questions I asked myself before making the decision: what will I miss from my previous life? Is my afterlife already guaranteed? Why can’t I choose which part of my body I allow society to see? Do I really know better than my Creator what’s best for me? Etc… I think it is a good start hahaha…I know it helped me a lot
I have read through your posts and you advocate a lot in favour of tolerance and mutual understanding. Can you tell us more about it?
Mutual understanding and avoiding stereotypes are keys to evolve peacefully in today’s society. As the saying goes: “Every sinner has a future and every saint has a past”. Contemplating those powerful words, thinking about my own mistakes I am outraged by society’s ability to condemn people without even trying to understand their struggles. It would be amazing if we could be more united and help each other out when the time is right and respect others’ privacy and personal choices when we don’t understand them.
Do you feel that non-Muslims and even some Muslims misunderstand the Islamic religion?
I think sometimes ignorance and arrogance is the main reason why there are misconceptions about Islam. On one hand ignorant people will base their judgment solely on what they heard through the grapevine and on the other hand people who are somewhat knowledgeable lack patience and become defensive whenever Islam is pointed out. However with technology and how viral information can get nowadays, non Muslims and Muslims are more and more up for dialogue and stereotypes are falling progressively.
From my perspective, the whole purpose of your page is “inspirational/motivational”, the messages I get from your page is that women can do and be whatever they want in this world, regardless of their religious beliefs? I am right? Can you comment on that?
Women can indeed achieve anything they set their mind to if there is sincerity, patience and energy in the task. Although the Muslim community is my initial target this is a general rule that applies to any religion because God is fair and always rewards hard work and honesty with success.
What challenges did you have to face in this project? I anticipate that a lot of people wouldn’t get it! Hijab + fashion could be termed as a very unusual combo in some parts of the world or inside some people narrowed minds. The word Hijab represents modesty while fashion reflects glamour in our 2014 world of hypersexualised women. How do you address these challenges and paradox and how do you deal with them?
Indeed, this society uses women as objects and my dream is to contribute to this new rising movement aiming at giving back to women their right to control their image and embrace their beauty. It is quite a challenge for me to face people who see embracing one’s beauty as being shallow and anti-islamic but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with building ourselves as women who are strong opinionated, knowledgeable, tolerant and creative instead of just following trends. I deal by promoting creativity and tolerance throughout my posts.
Any future projects? A website? A blog? A fashion line?
In Shaa Allah this is just the beginning, my passion for fashion is established for sure hahaha. Now I have plans for the future and I am still thinking of ways to empower women and protect their dignity. Surprise, surprise, …
I believe you visited Asia recently. How did you experience the Muslim culture in there?
I live in New Delhi and the Muslim culture is quite discrete because Hinduism dominates in most areas but there is nothing more beautiful than meeting Muslims from different backgrounds who after all have more in common with me than I could imagine Masha ‘Allah.
Senegal is a Muslim country but the hijab was never a nationwide custom like in Malaysia for example. However, I have noticed a growing hijab trend in the country. Young educated people are choosing the Hijab. What do you think of this trend? Is it here to stay? What is the motivation behind it?
I noticed a growing portion of Senegalese women wearing the hijab. Some of them do it out of strong conviction and some of them just follow trends and take it off. I am either way delighted to see the hijabis community grow. Is it here to stay? Only God Knows but society’s pressure is not helping for sure, women are not encouraged enough and face harsh criticism.
Name 5 African women that have inspired you and tell us why
I’d rather expand to African American women if you allow me?
Collé Ardo Sow for her huge contribution the Senegalese fashion industry, her humility and her perseverance. Oprah Winfrey for everything she accomplished and the hard work she puts in empowering women worldwide, Michelle Obama for her strength. Yasmin Mogahed (Egyptian scholar) who is beyond admirable and who helped me understand so much about the beauty of islam and of course my mother whose qualities I can’t even list here, you might fall asleep. (smile)
Have you ever been discriminated against because you were a hijabi or a woman? And how did you deal with it? Any advise to other sisters dealing with the same issue
I used to live in France where hijab is NOT well perceived and there were no job opportunities in the field I graduated in because I would have to meet important clients and French companies wouldn’t even grant me an interview so I moved which was a blessing because today I have new opportunities hahaha. To sisters who can’t move to a different country I suggest they approach Muslim organizations which might be able to help, other than that sadly some companies are just not willing to budge and there is nothing one can do about it for now. Hijab is God’s prescription be patient and ask Him Guidance like I did you will never regret it
Name two women leaders and/or scholars in Islam that have shaped and influenced your views of the religion
Yasmin Mogahed and Dr Ingrid Mattson they are both strong and smart. They understand humans’ struggles with faith and society without being judgmental which is vital to me.
Any advice for Elle Afrique readers? Word of encouragement
Let your creativity bloom even if people do not get you it is ok, be honest to yourself and love your culture enough to always represent it to the best of your abilities.
You can follow her on Facebook here: MADELEINE D’ARABIE