Opinions are author’s own
Khloe Kardashian has posted a selfie on instagram wearing one of the traditional Muslim headdresses, the niqab.
The picture was taken whilst she was in Dubai and has come under fire from the public. Many people are questioning why commenters are calling the Kardashian’s selfie “beautiful” but Muslim women are under fire every day for doing the exact same thing.
This is very important, as it sums up what the West typically believe about cultural appropriation. It is completely fine to take a piece of someone else’s culture and turn it into your own, but the culture itself is somehow seen as lesser – a thought that constantly baffles.
Susan Scafidi told Jezebel that cultural appropriation is, “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission…This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”
Khloe Kardashian has casually adopted a very important part of Islam for her own purposes. Muslim headdresses are constantly called oppressive by people who don’t understand them or refuse to try. This is very irritating that the Kardashian has not considered potential harm she might cause.
However, as a counter argument to what I have just said, Khloe Kardashian is providing some representation of Muslim women, normalising the fact that they wear headdresses. I have always argued that representation is key to acceptance, of both the people around you and of yourself. She is showing that the headdress is so much more than the oppressive article of clothing it is constantly painted to be, that it can be beautiful.
Overall, though, if this were any other religious dress, I don’t think this debate would be happening. With 1 in 4 Australians finding that their feelings towards Muslims are negative in nature, with women having to constantly defend their right to wear their chosen religious clothing, the problem is with people not understanding that wearing a hijab or niqab or a burka is a choice these women make. It is their right to choose to do so, the Koran calling for both men and women to “cover and be modest.”
In the end, that debate comes down to the idea that society should be able to tell people, and more specifically women, how to dress. This is wrong because individual women own their individual body. No one should be telling them what to do with it in the slightest.
Khloe Kardashian probably should have thought twice when posting her niqab selfie. It is terrible that such a double standard exists when it comes to Muslim religious wear, however the reaction at people questioning this double standard is a positive step in the right direction.
In my research for this article, I found this article that explains each option of religious wear for Muslim women. It sums up why women wear their chosen scarf.
A version of this article was published here in 2015