A Tale of Two Hinds

By Hamid Chaudry- News events this week threw open a trivial occurrence….two women, both called, Hind, both making the headlines. Now when’s the last time that happened, I hear some of you ask. While the rest of you are musing….any excuse for a whacky title, and a possible entry into the Guinness Book of Records. So let’s take a closer look…apart from sharing a name, there are some interesting contrasts between the two stories.

Hind Sahli – the New Face of Islam…?

The first Hind, Hind Sahli, had her face splashed across the pages of Newsweek this week….and that wasn’t the only place. She has also ‘graced’ the catwalks of Paris. Hind, from Morocco, together with another young lady from Tunisia, were hailed as ‘The New Faces of Islam’.  Both are Muslims, and are paraded as the next generation of global models. Both have also lived their whole lives in ‘Muslim’ countries.

In the west, the aspiring model possibly is attracted to such a career due to the promise of wealth and fame, or luxurious indulgencies and gossipy chatter. However, the ‘Arab’ or ‘Muslim’ equivalent sees this as a road to empowerment, opportunity and modernity. It is a chance for these young women to be seen, to be heard, or quite simply, to be. Modelling is their path to independence, liberation, and self worth.

Hind Ahmas – Women’s Lib?

The second Hind, also a Muslim, lives in France. Her picture was beamed across the global media. However, her face was concealed behind a black niqab. Hind Ahmas was one of the first Muslim women to be fined for wearing the Islamic niqab in public in France. A French court fined two women €120 this week, finding them guilty of breaking the law that bans the wearing of niqab in public. Hind immediately contested the fine, and stated her intention to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, hoping to overturn the ban. Her argument is one of religious freedom – ‘we cannot accept that women are sentenced because they are freely expressing their religious beliefs’, said Hind after the court ruling.

Two Hinds, both Muslim.

One brought up, living in the west, deciding to reject the western notion of women’s liberation; the other brought up in the Muslim world, seemingly rejecting the Islamic values and norms. Let us explore a little deeper to understand this paradox.

Cultural Invasion

In Morocco, Hind grew up feeling shy and awkward. Her tall and slim stature drew stares and teases. Is this any different to the bullying which is so common in UK schools, where anyone who is ‘different’ (whether height, weight, dress, intelligence, race or religion) is teased and isolated.  Such are the beginnings of depression, eating disorders and deep-rooted psychological illnesses. While such extremes are maybe less common in Morocco, why was Hind left feeling isolated (we will explore this later), and why did she feel a career in modelling would liberate her.

One answer lies in the reality of life in Morocco, Tunisia and the ‘Muslim’ world generally. Whilst these countries are historically Islamic, and populated by Muslims in the majority, many elements of non Islamic influence are present. Satellite television programmes for example. Hind grew up watching ‘America’s Top Model’, which goes same way to explain her life choice.

Societies are influenced by what they see around them, with their thoughts and ideas being challenged on a daily basis. Such programmes portray modelling as a progressive career choice, attained only by the very best, and offer the promise of wealth and fame, a life which is the envy of mere ‘normal souls. We are well familiar with these programmes in the UK; this has led to a generation of children with the express aim in life to be rich or famous, rather than aspiring doctors, engineers or even mothers.

Another factor is the influence of tourism. Whilst for many countries tourism is now an essential element of their economy (especially for Arab Muslim countries, whose real economies are either controlled by corrupt ruling regimes, or capitalist multi-nationals who siphon wealth funds to their home countries), the downside of the cultural impact of tourism needs to be weighed against the dubious of foreign currency inflows.

Hind’s photo shoot partner from Tunisia herself recognised that her ‘dream’ was only possible as she lived in the north of the country, which, due to the influence of tourism, was less conservative than the south of the country. For someone to pursue a similar path from the south was recognised as being much more difficult.

Freedom Rejected

France is often espoused for its liberal culture, and is one of the European countries that have taken a hard line in its treatment of Muslims wishing to adopt Islam as a basis for resolving their affairs. The ban on niqab is just one example, the ban on street prayers being another high profile case. An oft quoted misconception is that it is Muslim men who force their wives, daughters or sisters to wear the niqab, and on this basis, it is argued this infringes on individual rights or personal freedoms.

The case of Hind is not uncommon: she grew up in France with non-strict parents, and is open about her liberal past, when she wore mini-skirts and enjoyed partying. However, after re-assessing her life, and re-discovering her faith, she chose to wear the niqab. Now divorced, she states her husband had no choice in her decision.

Hind is a typical example of many educated women, who, having lived their lives in the west, but have rejected western traditions, norms and culture, and the supposed elevated and emancipated status offered to them by western society, to embrace rights afforded to them by Shariah law. Many of these women are reverts to the faith, rejecting western liberaism for a new way of life as Muslims.

Need for Self Reflection?

Also worthy of consideration is why is it, that a Muslim woman, brought up in a Muslim country, should seek ‘independence, self-worth and being’ in something other than Islam? Did Islam not liberate women fourteen hundred years ago? Is a woman to be valued for her ability to turn heads….rather than what’s in her own head? Do we need to review how we, as Muslims, view the role of Muslim women in society? Should their role be restricted to one of cooking and cleaning in the home, and serving men-folk?

Perhaps part of the problem is just that; some Muslim men have interpreted Islam not just as a male dominated institution, but one that excludes women altogether? Countries like Saudi and Pakistan (albeit the latter did have a female leader, something which Islam actually does forbid!) do little to demonstrate the positive contribution women are able to make to a society, and afforded to them through Shari’ah, if only they are given the chance.

Such treatment could lead women to seek their rights elsewhere, especially if they are being courted by western designs seeking to ‘liberate’ them away from Islam.


  1. Yahyaa ibn yahyaa says:

    Salaam! How deep dose your faith run? One is true in word and deed! The other; her actions speak loud and clear! ONLY Allah makes muslims.

  2. The Infamous says:

    I’m a great fan of Brother Hamid’s articles- May Allah protect him.

    Really it’s shows that women are oppressed in the western world. Their feminity and virtue has had to be compromised to achieve wealth and fame. Not for her mind or skill rather for the way she presents herself in front of men.

    Its sad that a woman is likely to progress quicker by presenting her beauty in front of men and encouraged to do so by the media and society. This is portrayed as normal but using the mind as her only tool is seen as abnormal and even strange.

    Definitely Islam and it’s history shows that it is the true liberator of women, her identity and is able to release her full potential for the benefit of humankind.

  3. sorry but who are you to judge??
    what a surprise u have more ‘respect’ for the veil clad woman rather than the one who doesnt- shock…
    each to their own
    what happened to judge not least ye be judged?

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