Notes From the Margins…

Muslims Wearing Things: An Antidote to Bigotry

  • May 29, 2011
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Question: What do these photographs have in common?

Muslim Mohammed Abdel Wahab is seen here wearing a fetching suit with his beloved Turkish cümbüş mandolin.Maryam “Ruttie” Jinnah, once wife of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, is simply sense and sensibility in this autumnal square-neck number.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along!” says Mara Brock Akil emphatically, when an audience member comes to their senses and realizes that there’s no such thing as a distinct Muslim look.

Principal Figgins, played by Muslim actor Iqbal Theba, is wearing a smirk because he just figured out how to get out of Sue Sylvester’s blackmailing. For now…


Answer:   All of them are pictures of Muslims, and they can be found on the wonderful website Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things a brilliantly imaginative antidote to the obsession with Muslim dress codes that has become a staple of contemporary Islamophobia.  It was created last year in response to an interview by National Public Radio news analyst Juan Williams on Fox News last October, in which Williams told host Bill O’Reilly:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Williams was fired for making these comments, but he is not the only person to make such observations.  In Europe – and increasingly in the United States as well – leading politicians, public figures and media commentators have identified ‘Muslim garb’ as a symbol of cultural backwardness or terrorism.  

Such interpretations are often steeped in ignorant, bigoted and sometimes overtly racist assumptions about what such ‘garb’ represents, and they invariably imagine Muslims as a monolithic and alien cultural group that can be instantly recognized by the way they look.

Muslims Wearing Things cleverly refutes this stereotyping with a compilation of striking photographs of Muslims from around the world and from all walks of life – both historical and contemporary – which make it absolutely clear that there are many different Muslims in the world doing – and wearing – many different things, and that Islam itself is often only one component of what Muslims are.

This might not seem like a particularly astounding revelation, but it’s a perspective that gets little airspace in the columns of Richard Littlejohn, Nick Cohen or Melanie Phillips – to name but a few.

So next time you find yourself accidentally wading through their bile and feel like choking on it, check out Muslims Wearing Things instead.

The site is worth visiting and re-visiting not only for the engaging images, but for the pithy and witty captions that accompany them, and the combination is a  triumphant and inspirational response to the torrent of dehumanising drivel that increasingly permeates mainstream discourse about Muslims in the Western world.


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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