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‘Bikini Model’ Raises Muslim Modesty Debate

Published: 27/03/2013 05:18:21 PM GMT
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CAIRO - The modeling of a young Muslim girl in the bikini business is raising a heated debate among Muslims in the United States about the rules of modesty according to Islamic teachings.“You can't just make up your own ru (more)

CAIRO - The modeling of a young Muslim girl in the bikini business is raising a heated debate among Muslims in the United States about the rules of modesty according to Islamic teachings.

“You can't just make up your own rules,” Imam Isa Abdul Basir told New York Observer.

“It is un-Islamic for a woman to display her body. That's not debatable.”

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Abdul Basir's daughter, Maryam, has grabbed headlines over modeling for bikinis as the first Muslim girl in the business in the US.

Her business, however, sparked uproar as it runs counter to Islamic teachings calling for modesty.

Some supporters argue that the concept of modesty differs from one country to another.

“The Qur'an doesn't specifically state that you must be covered,” said Professor Asma Afsaruddin, an expert on Islamic law at Indiana University.

“It talks about modesty. And modesty is a cultural concept. What is considered modest in some Muslim societies is not necessarily what is considered modest in the United States.”

She cites hijab, an obligatory code of dress, as an example of the different concept of modesty among Muslims in the West.

“Some young women cover as an identity statement, to tell the world they are Muslims,” said Professor Afsaruddin.

“Others don't feel the need for a statement. Their attitude is, ‘I'm confident of who I am as a Muslim, I don't need to wear a hijab to announce it.'

“Reserving the right to interpret religion is becoming a feature of the Islam of young Muslim Americans,” she said.

Sociologists opine that the new model represents a new trend among American Muslims.

“Maryam Basir represents a normalizing trend in the American Muslim community,” said Dr. Mucahit Bilici, a sociologist at John Jay College.

“There are some prominent male American Muslim athletes and entertainers, not all of them what you would call pious, and there are a few outspoken feminists, like Irshad Manji.”

The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.

Religious Awareness

Imam Abdul Basir laments that lack of enough religious leaders stumbles efforts to raise children according to Islamic teachings.

“We new Muslims didn't have generations of ancestors to guide us,” Abdul Basir, a father of five, said.

“I wanted my children to be pious and knowledgeable. But only one of my daughters still wears the hijab.

“In the end, you meet Allah and you are judged. No one wants to see his child punished,” said Abdul Basir, who works as a prison chaplain in Michigan.

“So yes, it hurts my heart to see what Maryam is doing. I fear for her.”

But his daughter has a different opinion about her modeling career, saying she is working in a “godless business”.

“I've met models who were raised in Muslim homes, but say they are no longer Muslims,” Maryam said.

“That's not who I am. I pray five times a day. I fast on Ramadan and celebrate the holidays. On Fridays I go to the mosque for juma prayers. I give zakat. I don't drink alcohol or use drugs. It was important to me to marry a Muslim. And I definitely plan on making a hajj, inshallah.“I'm aware that I'm not a perfect Muslim,” she said. “But I believe that Allah is not judgmental.”

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