In 2005, Shujaat Wasty wrote an editorial about the MuslimGear clothing company based in Montreal. And I wrote a response in which I thoroughly disagreed with many of his points.
Disclosure Notice: In the interests of full disclosure, I do wear MuslimGear and know some of the brothers and sisters involved in the company’s creation and distribution.
MuslimApple’s Response to Anti-MGear Editorial:
“Mirroring the overall industry, M-Gear is plodding along, with its clientele produced largely on basis of hype: the life-blood of the neo-MSAish types.”
“…to the point that they can pose as threats to the very survival of Muslims within non-Muslim society, especially Canada.”
MuslimGear is not threatening the survival of Muslims in nonMuslim societies. A major threat to Muslims living in predominantly nonMuslim lands is our persistent lack of visibility. How many times have we heard commentators and our neighbors say that Muslims have not condemned terrorist acts committed by Muslims?
Today, we are plagued with a majority of Muslims that are mostly indistinguishable from their nonMuslim counterparts and the devastating failure of Muslims in the arena of dawah. These two facts coupled together are among the greatest threats to the survival of Muslims in nonMuslim lands.
Standing up to pray in public is more beneficial than trying to find a remote place where nonMuslims cannot see us. Wearing clothing (and for men the beard) that makes us easily identifiable as Muslims is more beneficial than looking like the average disbeliever. And as the Wasty mentioned,
“the guidelines to follow are very explicitly indicated by Allah [subhanahu wa ta ala] in the Holy Qur’an, and the one who embodied and exemplified it in the most beautiful of manners, the Messenger of Allah, Muhammad” [sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam]
There should be no complaint in following the sunnah which is to not look like or wear clothing exclusively known as that of the nonMuslims. When we pray outside we should distinguish ourselves with the qiblah that Allah subhanahu wa ta ala has granted us and by follwing the words of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to pray with our shoes on.
“The consequence with the greatest potential of causing an impact is the aspect of polarizing the community, between Muslims and others. As it is, Muslims are sticking out even moreso in the post-9/11 era, consistently having to proclaim and prove their patriotism and loyalty, and having to fend themselves from vilification on many fronts. To appease this, the attempt is to integrate into Canadian society as valuable, beneficial members of the pluralistic mosaic. This factual image is being severely tampered with the attitude that seems to be the driving force behind Muslim Gear.”
Let me give you the glad tidings that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said that the believers should, “be like a stranger in this world”. And how blessed it is that Muslims are seen as strange. I don’t feel any need to proclaim patriotism or loyalty to anything other than Allah subhanahu wa ta ala and His Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, usually don’t stand up for judges in court, don’t have an American flag on my car, etc. And to those who wish to please the nonMuslims at the expense of their Islam – Allah subhanahu wa ta ala tells us in the Quran that never will the Jews and Christians be pleased with us until we follow their way. And were we to follow their way indeed we would be amongst the losers on the Day of Judgment.
…Yet the external demonstration of such is not the ideal way of achieving this. … This can act as a catalyst in causing psychological and/or intellectual immaturity; which in turn results in less perfect individuals, with a lasting effect on all circles around them.
Are we ashamed to be known as Muslims or do we become more perfect individuals according to the author by seeking to hide our Islam? As hijab is obligatory for a Muslim woman, her external appearance proclaims that she is a Muslim for all those to see. Men may be able to “blend” or hide their Islam better but there is no izza (honor, dignity) in that. All izza belongs to Allah azza wa jal and only in Islam and the submission to Allah azza wa jal can true izza be found.
“Hindu leader Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said in one of his speeches:The Hindus are asked to look after the education of their children under the Hindu faith just as Christians are looking after the education of their children under the Christian faith and the Mahomedans under the Muslim faith… The Mussalman preacher (Mullah) considers it his duty to make the principles of his religion know[n] not only to Muslims but also to non-Muslims so that, they may, if convinced, adopt the Muslim faith. The Christian missionary does the same thing. You do not expect the Mahomedan Mullah or the Christian missionary to look after the Hindu religion. Therefore, the Hindus should have their own organization to look after their socio-religious matters.”
What this man says makes sense. It is our duty to convey the message and it is Allah who guides the hearts. The hope is that upon seeing Islam they will accept it. I would not want to trust my affairs or that of my family to the Christians or Hindus. The historical example of India and Pakistan is not analogous to the ideology behind MuslimGear. It is much too much of an oversimplification, which under scrutiny does not hold any water.
“Such is the case with much of the M-Gear merchandise; numerous people have shared their experiences of people’s negative reactions.”
I wear MuslimGear and have had many positive encounters from Muslims and nonMuslims. Any negative responses would most likely have been the same had I been wearing the same clothing without any lettering.
“..causes their typically hype-driven consumers to easily adopt the perception that attiring oneself in M-Gear is nothing short of a great service to Islam and Muslims; the insinuation is commonly understood to be wearing it is part of Islam, practicing Islam, thus is virtually an obligation…”
Hype and publicity are good, easy, and an inexpensive ways to establish a brand. The author should purchase the AlMaghrib Institute’s Fiqh Ad Dawah seminar cd set offered by EmanRush for more tips on creating and maintaining a brand.
I wear MGear because I think it’s cool and I like some of their designs not because I feel I am doing a great service to Islam. I do not see it as an obligation. I wear it if I want one day and not the next, just like any of my other clothing.
“Instead of promoting deep thought and full comprehension of the action-reaction process of every minute aspect of behaviour, which is something each and every Muslim should be concerned with…”
I don’t see what is so deep in kowtowing to a few nonMuslim (in)sensibilities for fear of being seen as “too Muslim” but then I’m sure the author would say that this stems from my “intellectual immaturity”.
The solution proposed by Wasty is that “Muslims should employ a more conservative approach.” so that we do not offend the nonMuslims. We should keep trying to impress upon the nonMuslims that we are just like them or maybe a bit better and wait for them to invite us to sit at their table and then maybe our meek appearance may convey the message of Islam.
“M-Gear has increasingly been getting more media coverage by various outlets.”
In a way that some others [I had to search hard to re-find this article because I couldn’t remember the title or the author’s name while it was relatively straightforward to find MuslimGear through a search engine] are not receiving attention. We learned in Fiqh Ad Dawah that when you teach or become successful there will always be a group of dissenters maybe around 10% that will oppose you.
“It has become a known fact that Muslims have the youngest religious/ethnic community in terms of average age…. This is already something that is alarming to those who do not wish well for Islam and Muslims.” Another commonly-held view is that Muslim youth, overall, are more practicing and involved in their community as compared to other groups. On numerous occasions, various church members have approached Mosque members to inquire about how they are able to attract youth to their services.
Great news, we shouldn’t try to hide it.
“A generic brand of clothing and accessories targeting society at large would be excellent in generating money for the community – a model being used by companies like Timberlands (for other groups), etc. Not only would they be tapping pockets of the general community for the benefit of the Muslim community, a thriving business could also give an alternative to those who do not wish to be associated with notorious companies like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, etc.”
The problem with this is that it’s been done already, it’s boring and it’s stale, and MuslimGear or the new proposed label Generic Gear would be just another also ran in a market dominated by other brands.