SHE Canada - - SHE DEBATES - By Ameena Iqbal & Aly Zorn

Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, co-own­ers of Brook­lyn-based mod­est cloth­ing bou­tique, Mimu Maxi, bonded over their love for fash­ion and on-trend dress­ing. With Mimi’s knack for over­sized styles and prints, along with Mushky’s eye for menswear, the Mi and Mu of Mimu are de­sign­ing up a storm. Along with time­less pieces, the duo also let their “com-mimu-nity” of women around the world help vote on de­signs. Hecht and Notik, are sis­ters-in-law and mem­bers of Brook­lyn’s tight-knit Ortho­dox Jewish com­mu­nity, who started Mimu Maxi be­cause they were sick of “the lack of mod­est-yet-fash­ion­able cloth­ing op­tions” avail­able to them. The line not only ap­peals to the Ortho­dox Jewish, but also non-ortho­dox women who wear mod­est cloth­ing for re­li­gious rea­sons and women who strive to stand within strict codes of mod­esty. The Mimu Maxi’s line of long skirts and be­low the knee long airy tops re­ally per­tains to girls that like to stay up to trend, while keep­ing it cov­ered.

Mod­esty has been and con­tin­ues to be con­sid­ered im­por­tant in Is­lamic so­ci­ety, but the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what cloth­ing is con­sid­ered mod­est varies. The holy book of Is­lam, the Qur’an states that women should dress mod­estly to show­case their per­son­al­ity, not their body. Ortho­dox and ul­tra-ortho­dox Jewish women usu­ally wear skirts to their knees, with blouses cov­er­ing the col­lar­bone and sleeves com­ing to or cov­er­ing el­bows. Although it is hard for most women and men to abide by these rules, they do so in the most re­spect­ful way pos­si­ble. For both Mimi and Mushky, find­ing cloth­ing that cov­ered their el­bows, knees and col­lar­bone was the first step (or es­sen­tial)—and their pref­er­ence was hard to find. This led them to cre­ate their Mimu Maxi line.

Mimu Maxi is also all about their love for their cus­tomers and cre­at­ing a com­mu­nity, but they could not have pre­dicted what one re­post of a cus­tomer would spark. They came across fash­ion blog­ger, Sum­mer Al­bar­cha, who runs the pop­u­lar Hipster Hi­jabis In­sta­gram and thought they would send her their sig­na­ture skirt to see what she would pair it with. Sum­mer Al­bar­cha’s In­sta­gram is ded­i­cated to show­cas­ing Mus­lim women sport­ing “trendy yet mod­est fash­ion,” so she was def­i­nitely the right can­di­date to show­case Mimu Maxi’s cloth­ing. Be­ing a Mus­lim, Sum­mer sticks to her faith when it comes to her fash­ion style, while still show­cas­ing her pas­sion for style on her In­sta­gram page. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the gor­geous lime-green skirt leg­ging from Mimu Maxi, she posted it styled with her Michael Kors side bag, strappy heels and her favourite ac­ces­sory, her hi­jab. Sum­mer sent the pic­ture to Hecht and Notik, who then loved the look so much they re­posted it to their page

Then came the back­lash. In­stead of re­ceiv­ing rave re­views, many of Mimu Maxi’s Jewish cus­tomer base re­tal­i­ated an­grily, claim­ing that a photo of a Mus­lim woman was “in­sen­si­tive” and “ap­palling,” es­pe­cially at a time of tur­moil in the Mid­dle East. The age old

con­flict be­tween Is­rael and Palestine had reached a new level of hos­til­ity af­ter three Is­raeli teens were kid­napped and found dead; the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment blam­ing the Ha­mas. A full fledged war broke out amongst the ri­val na­tions re­sult­ing in the ex­change of air mis­siles and the mass loss of civil­ian life. The “Jewish Women’s Life” rightly pointed out, in an ar­ti­cle in the Daily Mail, that not ev­ery Mus­lim be­longs to Ha­mas, which is true for the vast ma­jor­ity who are in­no­cent by­standers.

In an ef­fort to sup­port equal­ity, Hecht and Notik went to Face­book and said, “We were shocked to see women im­me­di­ately pit them­selves against us, es­sen­tially ac­cus­ing us of be­ing in­sen­si­tive, putting our busi­ness above mo­rals, and threat­en­ing to “un­fol­low” and never pur­chase from us again–ef­fec­tively “copy­ing” the way of Is­rael/jewish haters by boy­cotting a beau­ti­ful, holy Jewish Busi­ness! ”(mimu Max­iFace­book). The sis­ters-in-law share the belief that mod­est dress­ing can be pro­moted through­out the world, re­gard­less of re­li­gion. Blog­ger, Sum­mer Al­bar­cha also com­mented to the Daily Mail, “I had more of an idea that this col­lab­o­ra­tion would show Mimu Maxi’s ver­sa­til­ity with all faiths through their mod­est cloth­ing.” Another woman in favour wrote to Hecht and Notik, “The last week has been stress­ful with the sen­si­tive sit­u­a­tion in Is­rael and Gaza–es­pe­cially when my so­cial media is filled sadly with racist com­men­tary with both anti-pales­tinian/mus­lim and anti-semitic over­tones. So it’s been re­fresh­ing and hope­ful… to see some­one high­light the im­por­tance of good re­la­tions be­tween peo­ple of two faiths.” All of these state­ments were pow­er­ful and in­sin­u­ate that the fo­cus of the post was meant to por­tray a mes­sage of unity. Rather than speak out against a Mus­lim, wear­ing cloth­ing cre­ated by Jewish de­sign­ers, fol­low­ers should pro­mote in­ter­ac­tions of this na­ture, im­ply­ing a mes­sage of peace and un­der­stand­ing.

Mod­est dress can be a form of shared power and a cel­e­bra­tion of ap­pre­ci­at­ing the fe­male form as sa­cred. Many re­li­gions re­gard mod­esty in this way and prac­tice mod­est dress, Jewish and Mus­lim faiths both be­ing par­tak­ers. In an age of media where sex sells and many women par­tic­i­pate in self-ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion mod­esty can be used as a tool to em­power all women and steer them away from ex­ploita­tion. In the case of Sum­mer Al­bar­cha, her hi­jab should not be re­garded as a sym­bol of dif­fer­ence, but should em­power women to con­nect based on shared be­liefs. His­tor­i­cally the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women has oc­curred even since bib­li­cal times and is on­go­ing. By com­ment­ing against some­one based on her faith you are only adding to the in­equal­ity of women mak­ing it eas­ier for oth­ers to do the same. Re­li­gion and faith aside, women should not for­get the fun­da­men­tal right of free­dom of ex­pres­sion, which Sum­mer, Hecht and Notik were right­fully de­mon­strat­ing. With so much con­tro­versy sur­round­ing mod­est dress and whether it is a form of op­pres­sion in it­self, women need to up­lift each other and val­i­date that for most mod­est dress is a choice, as well as a form of preser­va­tion. Mod­est dress should be viewed as a sim­i­lar­ity be­tween com­bat­ting re­li­gions and ul­ti­mately a shared belief to foster peace­ful in­ter­ac­tions. Hope­fully in the fu­ture cus­tomers of mul­ti­ple re­li­gions will be able to look at a sim­i­lar pic­ture and ap­pre­ci­ate it as an ex­pres­sion of fash­ion as well as fe­male em­pow­er­ment.

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