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Hijabs, From Main Street To Malaysian Shampoo

Advertisement from Malaysian hair care company Neutri-C
Advertisement from Malaysian hair care company Neutri-C
Jillian Deutsch

The hijab still makes Western societies squirm. Passing someone wearing the Islamic headscarf is too often seen as proof that Muslim women are "docile, oppressed, silenced," notes Hend Amry, a practicing Muslim and activist who writes about why she wears a hijab.

But, for better or worse, things are changing.

Entire new lines of products are now being touted for Muslim women who want to cover their hair in public — and live a modern, active life: You've got H&M with model Mariah Idrissi wearing a hijab in a major campaign; Nike launching a line of hijabs for working out; and even Pepsi's infamous failure of a video ad featuring a woman wearing a hijab.

Though these new products were met with great fanfare, not everyone was impressed (and not just because Pepsi's ad was so bad). To some degree, it's a question of perspective — and geography. Activists from predominantly Muslim countries who have made it a political act not to wear one, don't appreciate the new marketing push.

"I think the media in the West want to normalize the hijab issue," Iranian activist Masih Alinejad told the BBC. "They want to talk about minority Muslims in the West, but they totally forget there are millions of women in Muslim countries that are forced to wear the hijab."

A recent advertisement from Malaysian hair care company Neutri-C showed a woman shampooing her hair ... while still wearing a hijab. Beyond being mocked on social media, the video raised the real issue of how to advertise to women in Malaysia, where roughly 70% of the adult female population covers their hair.

Clearly the question for women's rights inside and outside the Muslim world goes well beyond headscarves. And change may indeed be afoot. In Abu Dhabi, for example, women — like one who shared her story with Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper — get divorced at the same rate as Germany, countering the "the clichéd image many still have of an Arab woman, of someone forced into marriage, oppressed and wearing a full hijab."

Ultimately, the fate of Muslim women is linked to their sisters everywhere, and the solution won't be found on Madison Avenue. One 16-year-old boxer from Minnesota named Amaiya Zafar, who fought for her right to don a hijab in the ring, said it best: "All girls should have a chance."

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The West Has An Answer To China's New Silk Road — With A Lift From The Gulf

The U.S. and Europe are seeking to rival China by launching a huge joint project. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will also play a key role – because the battle for world domination is not being fought on China’s doorstep, but in the Middle East.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden shaking hands during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Indian Prime Minister Narendra and U.S. President Joe Biden during PGII & India-Middle East-Europe Economics Corridor event at the G20 Summit on Sept. 9 in New Delhi

Daniel-Dylan Böhmer


BERLIN — When world leaders are so keen to emphasize the importance of a project, we may well be skeptical. “This is a big deal, a really big deal,” declared U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month.

The "big deal" he's talking about is a new trade and infrastructure corridor planned to be built between India, the Middle East and Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the project as a “beacon of cooperation, innovation and shared progress,” while President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called it a “green and digital bridge across continents and civilizations."

The corridor will consist of improved railway networks, shipping ports and submarine cables. It is not only India, the U.S. and Europe that are investing in it – they are also working together on the project with Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia is planning to provide $20 billion in funding for the corridor, but aside from that, the sums involved are as yet unclear. The details will be hashed out over the next two months. But if the West and its allies truly want to compete with China's so-called New Silk Road, they will need a lot of money.

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