Apr 21 2010
T-shirts and hoodies erroneously declare “Terrorism has no religion.” A baghead-covering bears the message: “Hijab. My right. My choice. My life.” A German fashion label is out to tell the world that Islam isn’t just compatible with Western values of tolerance and free expression — it can be hip, too.
Nothing about Islam is compatible with Western values, NOTHING!
The project was born in 2006 as Muslim mobs rampaged across Europe against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Designer Melih Kesmen became fed up with the anti-Muslim stereotypes that sprang up over the protests as well as the rioters’ attempts to stifle free speech.
So Mr. Kesmen, a practicing Muslim born and raised in Germany to Turkish parents, decided to express his feelings through fashion. “I first created a sweater just for myself with the slogan ‘I love my Prophet’ to take a stand as a peace-loving, tolerant Muslim,” said the 34-year-old designer, sporting designer glasses and a black goatee. (But loving his prophet means hating non-believers in Islam)
Together with his wife, Yeliz, he set out to create Style Islam, a brand of hip, casual clothing with Islamic-themed sayings as its focus.
Above all, the brand strives to spread a message of tolerance. One design reads: “Jesus & Muhammad/Brothers in Faith.” (That is blasphemy against Chritianity) More than three years on, Style Islam offers 35 different motifs that playfully merge Islam and pop culture. Besides clothing, their collection also features bags and posters.
“Women love buying rompers with the writing ‘Mini Muslim’ across their chest,” said Mrs. Kesmen, 30, who wears a brown hijab, or headscarf, and silver nose stud. On its Web site, Style Islam’s creators explain every motif they sell.
For hijabs they write: “In today’s society, it is not easy for a woman to wear a bag on her head. Often she is exposed to discrimination and prejudice … even though from an Islamic point of view, the headscarf is a symbol for women’s liberation from society’s constraints.” (This guy must be on drugs)
Cotton T-shirts sell for just under $27, laptop bags and hooded long-sleeve shirts go for around $47. Style Islam also offers key chains featuring praying, covered-up Muslim girls. Through the Internet, the company sells its clothes across Western Europe, the U.S., Canada and Turkey. The next target market is the Middle East.
“We’re … getting a lot of requests from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates or Morocco,” Mr. Kesmen said in his sleek white office in Witten, a town nestled in a western region known more for its steel mills than avant-garde fashion.
“First and foremost we’re European Muslims. We were born here and we’re at home here,” he said. “When we go to Turkey, we’re strangers. They call us the German Turks over there.” Mr. Kesmen says Style Islam’s key buyers are young Muslim immigrants, typically between 17 and 35 years old. Their street wear is proving especially popular among university students.
“We want to give people food for thought with our clothes and signal that it’s not a contradiction to be a practicing Muslim and to be modern, witty and critical at the same time,” he said. (MODERN, WITTY MUSLIM is an oxymoron)
Not everyone agrees. The company gets mail decrying its use of Islamic-themed sayings and symbols, typically from devout Muslims who say the fashion label does not promote the seriousness of the faith.
Mr. Kesmen said they don’t aim to offend. There are no T-shirts bearing images of Muhammad, for example, but the brand doesn’t shy away from controversy, either. One shirt bears the legend “Gaza Stop the Killing Now” with a bloody palm print in red. (They don’t dare offend Muslim but don’t care if they offend NON-Muslims) WASHINGTON TIMES
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