Salam…I know, right?
As much as I would have liked for the world to see things through a different lens, that hasn’t been the case and unfortunately, silence perpetuates a bigger problem from which truth seemingly becomes irrelevant. So here I am, writing to address the “controversy” that I seemingly started but more importantly, to thank those of you that maintained respect whether you agreed or disagreed with my decision.
A few months ago, I was contacted by Playboy. The magazine was celebrating “seven cultural rule breakers who are changing the way we think, dress and more,” and I was one of them. I know, the namesake alone is enough to make anyone gawk at the thought of a Muslim woman in a hijab being included in its pages. I’ll admit, when I was initially approached by the publication, I was nervous and unsure if I should take the interview. I knew that Playboy had overhauled the look of the magazine and took out the nudity; that was great but it wasn’t enough. This wasn’t a decision that I could take lightly. I spent time talking to my family and mentors, praying about it, and asking the writers a ton of questions. While doing my research, I learned that the magazine was committed to putting social justice and cultural progress at the forefront of their mission. It may sound wrong and it may make you uncomfortable to associate Playboy with social justice and cultural progress, but that’s what I do. I break the rules, I allow myself to step out of my comfort zone and make people uncomfortable along the way. That personal “rebellion” is a form of honesty; it’s about being your most authentic self and living up to the meaning of Noor (“Light” in Arabic).
We are taught that our beloved prophets came to those who were broken, struggling and in places of darkness. They never believed that their message was too good for any audience and neither should we. We live in a struggling society that so desperately needs to see our light; a society that needs to hear our voice.
So I did it. I participated in the interview; On my terms. I wore what I wanted, I stood for what I believed in and I was unapologetically myself. I can proudly say that I have no regrets. A fully clothed 22-year old Muslim American Libyan Woman took an iconic magazine and used it to spread a positive and much needed message. I did what so many women with inspiring messages of hope would have been uncomfortable doing because success for a woman is often predicated on what society deems appropriate for us to succeed in.
I didn’t do it for those who perpetuate this notion that if something a woman does isn’t aligned with how you would have liked to see it done you’re justified in attacking her character, morals and religious beliefs. This microscopic scrutiny and bullying that women are subjected to on a consistent basis is not only toxic, it’s also detrimental to our communities. It needs to stop.
I did it for Muslims, for women, and for everyone misrepresented in mainstream media today. I did it for young women everywhere that are struggling with their identity and feel misunderstood. I did it for the 10,000 who came before me that were bullied in private or publicly humiliated because they didn’t conform to societal standards of how a woman should present herself. I did it so that the 10,000 who come after me will reclaim their power to kick down closed doors and break through glass ceilings. I did it for YOU, the person who read the interview and thought it was inspirational, the person who was confused, the person who was disappointed in me and the person who wasn’t sure what to think. I did it to demonstrate that there is nothing more powerful than a woman being unapologetically herself and standing firm in what she believes — no matter who is listening.
If the article has been banned in your country – YOU CAN READ IT HERE
ARABIC TRANSLATION OF THIS LETTER – YOU CAN READ IT HERE