For the uninitiated, Dina Torkia (or Dina Tokio) is a blogger/YouTuber/social media influencer/designer and all round cool person. I have been watching Dina for maybe… 10 years?
I always found her refreshing. She’s half English, half Egyptian and has been very vocal about the experiences and frustrations that Muslim hijabi women face. She’s obnoxious and loud and opinionated and made a name for herself being all those things and a hijabi which did wonders for me – an obnoxious and loud and opinionated Muslim woman in a hijab.
Dina has made a living off of being a hijabi fashion blogger/vlogger. Most recently she released a book called Modestly based on this very experience.
In her early years, Dina wore her hijab much like I did – it covered her hair and neck completely. Over time, that changed, and she started to wear her hijab in a turban style.
And then as time went on, Dina started to show more hair and more fringe. Of course, people started to question Dina and post comments about how she wasn’t a ‘real’ hijabi. In recent months, she started sharing her discomfort with wearing the hijab, suggesting that she was only doing it part-time.
Over the weekend, she posted pictures with her hair showing completely and her instagram page descended into chaos, with people posting hateful (and often hurtful) comments that suggested she had built a career out of her hijab and had been untruthful this entire time, that she was a disgrace as a Muslim, and that she was defying God etc etc.
Dina posted an Instagram story suggesting that the hijabi community was a ‘toxic cult’ – eesh.
So what the hell is going on???
Firstly, I should say up front that I absolutely believe that the hijab is a requirement in Islam and that women are required to cover their hair (in fact, the first post I ever wrote was about this!). However; I also believe that humans are given personal choice in the broadest meaning of that word – so if a Muslim woman does or does not want want to wear a hijab, no one can force her, and if a non-Muslim woman wants to wear a hijab, no one can stop her.
Why are women upset about it?
Whenever a woman suddenly makes a ‘drastic’ fashion choice, people want to comment – just as a woman with long hair who suddenly gets a bob. It’s the same with women who put on or remove their hijab. People are always going to notice the drastic difference.
However; I think that women in a hijab often get upset when another woman takes off their hijab because suddenly they’re confronted about their choices form within. That is, hijabis often have to defend their choice to the entire world – we have to explain the reasons we wear our hijabs to people, we have to argue to have our voices heard by people who assume we are oppressed. We have to fight back against social and legal pressure to remove our scarves in an increasingly Islamaphobic world. We have to find ways to fit in with the way that we dress and behave while remaining true and faithful to our choice to wear hijab.
And then suddenly one of us – a very public one of us – removes her hijab. It creates an earth-shattering jolt which makes it feels like all our choices and assertions and justifications for being able to be modern women in the west while wearing our hijabs have fallen apart.
We start to wonder how the rest of the world is going to see the actions of this one woman – are they going to point to her and say ‘See! You don’t have to wear a hijab!’ or ‘See! You can’t live in the West while wearing that thing!’? Are other women going to stop wearing their hijabs too and are we going to have to do way more justifying?
Is that fair?
The simple answer is no; no it is not. Dina does not owe anyone anything. It’s not Dina’s responsibility to keep wearing a hijab so that everyone else – Muslim or not – feels okay about it.
If you wear a hijab, that is your decision. You are doing it for your own personal reasons… it could be out of a love for God, modesty, sense of identity, culture – whatever. None of those reasons should be tied up in another individual.
Dina does not owe it to anyone to wear a hijab. Dina’s actions are in no way related to you or your own choices. Just because I wear a hijab (and will likely do so for the rest of my life) doesn’t mean that anyone else has to or that my choice is any less acceptable.
Make excuses for your brother
In her Podcast with Sid (her husband) on this issue, Dina suggested she wouldn’t go into detail about her reasons for taking off the hijab because she didn’t want to influence the way others felt. I completely respect where she is coming from.
One of the duties of a Muslim is to give his brother an excuse; that is, Muslims should not being making rash judgements about other people.
Hamdun al-Qassar, one of the great early Muslims, said
“If a friend among your friends errs, make seventy excuses for them. If your hearts are unable to do this, then know that the shortcoming is in your own selves.” [Imam Bayhaqi, Shu`ab al-Iman, 7.522]
You can read more about this concept here. People have made multiple negative speculations about Dina – but there’s clearly a lot going on. She has just had a baby – maybe she has PPD and can’t deal with things right now. Maybe she’s struggling to cope with her identity as a mother of two young children in her (and in fact, Dina has written about this). Maybe she doesn’t feel like the best Muslim and the ‘hijabi’ label is making her feel bad?
Who knows what’s happening??
The point is that Muslims shouldn’t be rushing to bash her choices. Instead, we should be approaching her with love and kindness. The world is a messed up, awful place for Muslims to live in. Palestinians have struggled for decades with an apartheid state. Chinese Muslims are being tortured in government concentration camps. Yemini’s are living in what the UN describes as hell and the keepers of the holy lands murdered and probably dismembered a journalist in a Turkish embassy and over 720,000 Rohingya people who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh are probably going to be sent back to the state that tried to kill them all.
Did this post suddenly get really heavy?
Yeah. It did. Because Dina’s hijab is so irrelevant to what’s actually happening in the world – Muslims have much better things to worry about right now.
And just like any other decent human being on this planet – Dina deserves kindness.
If we want our choices to be respected, we need to respect the choices of others.
I hope Dina finds her own peace and happiness.
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I really liked this post and I agree. We shouldn’t all of a sudden run a and tear Dina down. While I do not think she made a good choice, I also believe that Dina has nothing to do with my belief in why I wear a Hijab and my relationship with Allah. Dina is a person and she sins just like we all do. We should treat her the way we would want to be treated when we sin…..give her loving words of encouragement and guidance and pray that Allah mercifully steers her back in the right direction.
Thank you, Jannah 🙂 Yeah – that’s right. Ameen!
this is wordy, but here goes:
I think the same dynamics play out in every group that is based on a metaphysical and/or philosophical tenet.
For example, an ethical vegan/vegetarian (as opposed to a health food vegan) who starts eating meat can, and should, really, expect vegans to respond negatively to this choice.
People know us by the actions we perform publicly, and when we start performing actions that are diametrically opposed to our previous behavior the blow back is normal. For an ex-vegan there is a lot of vitriol thrown at them–you don’t care about animal suffering anymore?? you don’t care what meat eating is doing to the planet?? how could you do this???? Because for ethical vegans, eating meat is on the level of owning slaves or mashing cats into a grinder. Of course they are angry and want to show it. If you are just a normal private person who is a vegan and then goes back to burgers, who is going to care or know? Maybe a few friends or family members, and the response will be small and manageable.
However, for YT personalities they are pretty much asking for it.
When it comes to a Muslim woman who has made a career out of being a role model for young women who wear the hijab (and has made money doing it), when she decides to stop performing the act that drew people to her in the 1st place and caused them to like/trust/emulate her, she looks like a fraud.
Do people change? Of course they do. But if a Muslim woman (and I say this as a non-Muslim) takes off her scarf and starts doing hairstyle videos and shows what was once haram and so important to cover because she literally believes that the creator of the universe commands it, it makes her look like a either a grifter or a woman who is lying about her faith in order to get more subscribers and influence and make more money. What if instead of the hijab she had said she is going to enjoy bacon or wear Daisy duke shorts now? Would there still be defenders?
I wish women in general, regardless of our religions or colors or sizes, would stop chasing the “gotta be hot” train. When I was young there were magazines and catalogs and that was it.
Now we have these ridiculous “influencers” putting images of what beauty and modesty look like and they’re all ridiculous.
Dina’s photos were all about how cute and fashionable and adorable she looked and hey, you can be cute and adorable too in hijab–just do what i do! The only women I know who are truly free of this bugbear of beauty are the lesbians in my neighborhood who never wear makeup, have sensible shoes, short hair, and don’t give a damn if anyone finds them adorable and they NEVER do duck lips in photos.
Hi Jennifer! Thanks so much for your very insightful comment. You make a lot of really valid points – this isn’t really something I had considered. Dina did create a following based on her Muslim identity. I wouldn’t have followed her otherwise because she was just a regular person without her sense of Islamic identity and her hijab. I suppose when I wrote this post I was feeling for her because of the pressure she was under but, with hindsight, I think some of that criticism was justified. She should have been prepared to face questions and scrutiny from the public about why her very public identity as a woman in a hijab was suddenly being replaced.
Now that I’ve seen just how much she focuses on her hair and the way she looks, I’m disappointed in her approach. Still, to each their own I guess.