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A muslim model?

Lancome has just announced that it is for the first time using a ‘Muslim’ model. I can’t even begin to describe the numerous ways this headline irritated me, but I’ll give it a try!

Hanaa Ben Abdesslem is Tunisian, and is described as Lancome’s first ever Muslim model. Hanaa has been described by some as being reminiscent of a young Isabella Rossellini. I agree she is beautiful, and to be fair to Lancome, this particular press release has already garnered them rather a lot of attention, so I guess it has achieved its aim. As for me, well I have quite a few issues with it:

1. Being a Muslim is not the same as belonging to a certain racial group. Muslims come from all over the world (the fastest spreading religion in the world and all that). So, how does the fact that she is a Muslim define her in any way shape or form?

2. As a Muslim myself (admittedly not always one who follows her religion as much as she could or should) I am not sure if Hanaa, wearing what appears to be simply a blazer and nout else, represents my religion. In fact I suspect that most practising Muslims might take offence to having their religion associated with this campaign.

3. It’s also the patronising nature of the headline that really bothers me. Hanaa apparently comes from a country which takes a more relaxed approach to Islam. I am all in favour of that…if it means women are getting equal opportunites and getting their voice heard. But as a Muslim who has grown up in the West, I am not sure whether getting to dress up in nothing but a blazer and posing in front of a camera necessarily an aspect of western culture that I would want anyone I know to aspire to.

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